Thursday, December 23, 2010

Megan's Mega-ministry

Politically, it is often the loud suburban prosperity-driven mega-churches that get attention. Often in local church districts, it's the congregations that fill the most seats and generate the most income for the congregation (even if they don't share or tithe with the local church bodies) that get the most attention and respect.

As the Executive Director of Welcome, where we've downsized from 3 staff members to 1 in the same year where hunger has increased 40% locally, I am consistently begging for funds and we are only able to keep the doors open because of the generosity of other interfaith congregations and faith groups.

In terms of our place amongst other congregations, some might think of my work as like one of the little fish that cleans the side of the tank or a bird that eats to bugs off of other bigger animals. Some have even thanked me for being willing to work with those who are not welcome at other congregations, or whom they cannot stand to see, smell or share coffee hour food with.

While financially these metaphors are apt, the last statement certainly says more about those who have said it than it does about me or my work.

Welcome is the little engine that could, keeping its doors open while bigger non-profits that work with those living in poverty disappear each year.

Our focus is simple. Rather than becoming a static place for direct services, Welcome seeks to educate faithful people so that their efforts can make a bigger difference in the neighborhoods they live in and to fill in the gaps where bigger programs and government organizations are unable to meet critical needs.

Sometimes this means filling out paperwork for people, serving food on a day when no other agencies are open, teaching people to learn the life skills they need to live indoors for the first time in 20+ years or organizing congregations and faith groups to share more than 5,000 blankets.

But even though Welcome has to beg for what we need and the funds to keep our doors open in with the same constant tenacity as those we serve, that does not mean our space in the church at large should be belittled.

So, starting today, I will now think of myself as a pastor of a mega-church. Called to be a pastor to the more than 4,300 homeless individuals in San Francisco, Welcome has more members than any other congregation in town. What other congregation could say that its membership includes 1 in 6 San Franciscans (the number of people who go hungry each day)?

Our goal is not prosperity, but rather true quality of life and dignity for all. And we work each day in hopes of decreasing our membership list. This 2011 I may be the only pastor in the country who would rejoice if my membership dropped by 50%.

Have a blessed holiday season, pray for San Francisco and the high suicide rate that we have this time of the year. And thank you for being an encourager, supporter or follower of this mega-ministry!

Pastor Megan Rohrer
Executive Director
1751 Sacramento St

Location:Polk Gulch, San Francisco

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Email Newsletter

Learn more about our successful blanket drive that distributed more than 5,000 blankets, get invited to some upcoming events and participate in our non-event fundraiser. Read our newest email blog. You can subscribe to the email newsletter at the top of the page by clicking "Join" if you'd like to get it delivered directly to your inbox in the future.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homeless React to the Sit/Lie Law


Education is the root of everything we do at Welcome. In addition to preaching and teaching about poverty at more than 56 congregations, organizations and schools each year, Welcome also provides the following educational opportunities for our guests:

Urban Food Share: The Urban Food Share Program is a community space to learn about nutrition and the slow food movement. This will include individual guidance for people to discover their own particular dietary needs and create a model for sharing food that uses a choice and empowerment model to explore ways to enable individuals with little or no access to a kitchen, refrigerator or microwave to eat healthier. We also hope to create a community gardening space so that our guests can have a closer connection to the foods they are eating.

Community Gardening Project: The Urban Share Community Gardening Project takes advantage of underutilized city spaces by transforming them into community spaces; the results providing a tangible resource and tools for residents to learn about environmental protection, creative reuse and to address local hunger. Educational classes are available to help members of the community learn to create their own gardens in person or through our blog.

Somatic Trauma Care: Designed to help the homeless and other low income individuals learn the skills they need to heal from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition to the family and life trauma's that afflict many people living in poverty, there are also 2,100 homeless veterans, according to the San Francisco Chronicle who are in need of this care. Learn more about how trauma care helps those living in poverty improve their quality of life.

Individual Pastoral Support and Referral: Pastor Megan provides support to our guests and chaplains. Types of support include assisting guests to access obtain their identification, emergency housing or entry into drug detoxification and treatment services; accompanying guests to medical or legal appointments; and visiting guests in hospitals, jails and treatment programs. Whenever possible our one-on-one support seeks to educate guests to advocate for their own needs and to make and keep goals.

For more information on how to volunteer, please contact:


watermellonAt Welcome we believe that all people need to be fed in their mind, body, spirit and stomach. Poverty has made it difficult for some individuals to gain the access the food they need to survive. We not only provide food for those in need, but we also help our guests learn sustainable ways to secure food in the future. At Welcome there are no lines, we serve restaurant style (bringing food to seated guests) and always eat with our guests. As a result, our meals are community building experiences that help those who are often marginalized to learn social skills, feel connected to their community and to provide us with direct feedback about our programs.

The Welcome Center: Every Tuesday from 2-4 pm Welcome offers a light lunch to guests in a safe communal setting, where guests and volunteers eat together. Here members of the community are able to fill their hunger and gain access to the other support services that Welcome has to offer. Many of the guests at this meal have been homeless for more than 20 years, so slowly helping people become comfortable with socialization is a big part of what we do. Welcome Center guests make appointments with Jay and Megan to get more individual support throughout the week.

Saturday Community Dinners: Every 2nd and 4th Saturday a month we provide a meal to 200+ members of the community, including the homeless, marginally housed and many low income seniors. Different congregations, students or group provide the food and volunteer each dinner and eat with guests. On special occasions we also hand out clothing, socks, help people send cards to family members and hand out blankets. How to host a community dinner.

Hospitality Hour: Every Sunday morning, 90-140 individuals are served a two course meal at St. Francis Lutheran Church. A Community Thanksgiving Meal feeds an additional 200 individuals each year. This project is in partnership with St Francis Lutheran Church, Food Runners and SF CARES.

The Senior Program: Every Wednesday, activities, lunch and hospitality for seniors are provided at St. Francis Lutheran Church. This project is in partnership with St Francis Lutheran Church and SF CARES.

The Free Farm: A community farm created on the ashes where St. Paulus Lutheran Church used to be before it burned down in the early 90's.  Since its creation in 2010, more than 8,593 pounds of free food have been harvested and given away to it's neighbors and lunch is served around noon every Wednesday and Saturday.  This project is in partnership with St. Paulus Lutheran Church, SF CARES, the Free Farm Stand and Produce to the People.

For more information on how to volunteer, please contact:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reformation manifesto against poverty & homelessness and for pastor self care

Times Square New York

My last night indoors before my 7 days and 7 nights on the street this year I'm spending in Times Square. It wasn't planned to be an intentionally poetic thing. I'm doing a panel talk at CUNY's Graduate Center tonight for Out History. I fly back in the early morning and then head immediately to Davis, CA to preside at the closing worship of the Sierra Pacific Hunger Network's gathering. Then, I'll head immediately to Old First Presbyterian for the Saturday Community Dinner which will feed about 300 people. Afterwards I'll be joining the group of fools (no really, that's what we call ourselves - Faithful Fools after St. Francis of Assisi) and I'll be one of the huddled masses sleeping on the concrete outside of First Unitarian Universalist Church.

This street retreat, I'll be working on and off while I sleep on the streets at night. While this is a little different from past years, I think it will be a revelatory experience. First, I always find it helpful to feel how it feels in my bones to participate in the typical activities that I regularly ask homeless volunteers to participate in. Experiencing it helps me to understand what are unhelpful rules or just make life more difficult and painful for folk.

Another purpose of my continuing to work is to highlight the struggles of the working poor. This time in our economy more than ever, there are so many people working jobs that don't pay all their bills. Even I, someone very well off compared to the lives of those living on the streets, is currently working more than one job in order to get out from under debt, to pay my exceedingly high mortgage and because I haven't had a raise in three years.

And though there are a million reasons that my working while on street retreat can be illuminating, the final one I'll give here, is that during this week before the anniversary of the Reformation I want to highlight the way that pastors that chose to serve those with the least are consistently overworked and underpaid.

Without the ability to get good self care (through vacations, time off to think, time away from crisis and time away from bill worries both at work and home.

So for all these reasons, and all those that will come to me along the way, I officially declare my street retreat (from October 23 - 30) a call for a reformation to: solve domestic poverty; to pay living wages for individuals and families; and to provide self care and support with our prayers, money and priorities for pastors, particularly those engaged in community ministry or the diaconate, to get the self care they need.

Join me on my street retreat/reformation at:

And since I will beg on the streets, and in most of these notes, you might as well get used to me begging you to support the vital work that I'm able to do at Welcome. (via the mail: 1751 Sacramento St., San Francisco, CA 94109 or via the interwebs at:

I get the privilege of developing creative ways for folk to respond to poverty - whether they live in it or not. If you feel like my blog will entertain you as much as a movie, give $11. If it makes you think like a book would, give $25. If it feels like church, consider tithing %15 of next weeks salary. If you learn as much as a college class consider donating $255. If it changes your life, or at least your perspective, how much is that worth to you?

Since most of my time is spent finding ways to make things free that people in poverty can't afford, I won't be upset if you don't give. But, anything you do give will help me spend less time begging (and more time helping those living in poverty improving their quality of life) when my street retreat is over.

Blessings upon blessings to you and yours. May you be warm and fed, today and all the days of your life.

Pastor Megan

Location:Time Square, NY, NY,United States

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Loaves and Fishes

Tonight at our Saturday Community Dinner, which we host every 2nd and 4th Saturday, we served 276 people and handed out clothing and toiletries to more than 150 of our guests. At this time last year we served 153 people. Since no other organization has meal programs on Saturday nights, despite the fact that we don't advertise in the local free eats charts, our numbers have been rising steadily over the last three years.

For these dinners we depend on the generosity of congregations and other organizations. Churches and volunteers donate their gently used clothing and toiletries that they collect from hotels during their travels. The congregation at Old First Presbyterian recently had a sock and undy Sunday in order to help us get more clothing and toiletries for our dinners.

The truth is that if we had twice as many donations, there is enough need to give away twice the number of donations.

Tonight I went to the grocery store three times to get more food and supplies so we could feed the additional 100 people who were hungry tonight.

We need your help to serve those who are in need for the rest of the year. All our 2nd Saturday dinners have groups that are bringing the food for our guests, we need individuals and/or organizations who would be willing to help us serve and will either bring food or would like to sponsor the food for our 4th Saturday dinners.

The dinners typically run between $1.50 to $6 a person, depending on the quality of the food and if the dinner hosts cook it themselves or get pre-cooked food.

Contact Megan if you're interested in sponsoring a dinner. From now until January, we will be preparing enough food for 300.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Online Silent Auction

An online silent auction has been created for the upcoming fundraiser. New items will be added up until July 24th, so check back regularly.

View the auction here.

Join us on July 25th

Extending the Welcome
a fundraiser

Friends of Welcome -

Today I'm writing to invite you to two events. On July 25th, 7 GLBTQ pastors, including myself, will be welcomed onto the official roster of the Lutheran church (ELCA). This day of extending the welcome to GLBTQ members of the Lutheran church is 20 years in the making. You can join us in person, at St. Mark's Lutheran at 4pm or watch the service on the internet by live stream. Click here for more information about the service.

After this historic service, join Welcome at an after party fundraiser. Enjoy dancing, a silent auction, appetizers and drinks (beer, wine and soda). You need not attend the service to join us at the fundraiser.

Welcome has been working since 1996 to help the chronically homeless and hungry move indoors, get connected to life saving services and learn the skills they need to improve their quality of life.

Join us in the ballroom of the Hamilton Hotel (631 O'Farrell) to extend the celebration for great cause. For more information and to buy tickets for the event, click here.

If you are unable to join us and would like to send a donation or pay for one of Welcome's guests to participate, you can donate online.

Or, mail a check to Welcome:
1751 Sacramento St.
San Francisco CA 94109

For more information about Welcome visit:


Rev. Megan Rohrer
Executive Director

P.S. I hope you'll join me for the service and the fundraiser. This is one more opportunity for us to raise funds to match the challenge gift of $15,000 we received from St. Paulus Lutheran.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

$15,000 Challenge Grant from St. Paulus Lutherans

Friends of Welcome -

I'm excited to announce that our friends at St. Paulus Lutheran Church in San Francisco have given Welcome a $15,000 challenge gift this month in order to inspire donors and congregations to support Welcome during this important time.

To date, congregations have pledged $64,050 and we will be receiving another $21,500 from grants. Together with other donors and congregations, your support now will enable Welcome to raise the $15,000 in salary support we need to raise in 2010.

Once we reach our $15,000 goal, Welcome will be able to use the additional support that comes in this year to replenish our savings account. A healthy savings account is important for sustaining Welcome through difficult economies (we were sure grateful for these funds last year!) and ensures that Welcome will be able to provide support for individuals living in poverty for years to come.

So if you've been following all the wonderful projects that Welcome has been working on over the last couple of years, whether your are giving for the first time for the hundredth time, we hope you will consider a special gift to help us raise our $15,000 goal. And for those of you who need to be challenged to do it, St. Paulus Lutheran double dog dares you to help match their $15,000 gift.

Donate Online or mail a check to: Welcome, 1751 Sacramento St, San Francisco CA 94109


Rev. Megan Rohrer
Executive Director

P.S. Thanks for all the ways that you support Welcome through your donations, prayers and volunteer time. St. Paulus Lutheran challenges you to help Welcome meet it's goal to raise $15,000.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Join Us and Support Welcome

free   farm fundraiser postcard

Join us for
A Free Farm Afternoon

Gough & Eddy
in San Francisco
May 22, 2010

3:30 Talk by Novella Carpenter, Author of Farm City

Music Provided by: Lia Rose

Food Donated by: farm:table, Mama's on Washington Square, Greens, Maggie Mudd, and Bi Rite Market.

A family friendly afternoon at the Free Farm. Food from Mama's on Washington Square, Green's Restaurant and many more. Wine tasting. Coffee from Farm Table Cafe. Carla's kid's corner. Music and Poetry. A fun and very special afternoon.

A special talk by Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City, a book about her first year running Ghost Town Farm in Oakland. Novella Carpenter will speak at 3:30 pm.

Join us and support WELCOME. We provide a communal response to poverty with a simple philosophy of providing food, education and counseling to the communities we serve.

tickets $75, $50, $25. Pay what you can afford. Consider buying two tickets to sponsor one of our community members.

Our Organization:
When Welcome was founded in 1996, our initial mission was to work with the homeless in San Francisco's Polk Gulch District. In 2008, our work resulted in over 155 people moving indoors. We continue to work with the same low income individuals to help them learn the skills they need to remain indoors, to improve their quality of life and to become self-sustaining individuals through meals, one-on-one support and creative community projects that address the health needs of those living in poverty.

At the Free Farm at the corner of Gough & Eddy in San Francisco

The Free Farm:
Is a farm that will grow 12,000 pounds of food that will be distributed for free to members of the community. You can find information about the free farm at

Order your tickets now:

In the News

Check out this great story about the Free Farm from KQED's Bay Area Bites Blog.


Or, what about starting from the very beginning, and growing more food from scratch right here in the city? Even in cities as highly populated as San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, a surprisingly amount of arable land is still available. Just look at the Free Farm, which was started on a vacant lot at Gough and Eddy Streets in January of this year.

Pastor Megan Rohrer, a young Lutheran pastor who works with a variety of homeless communities around the city as the executive director of Welcome Ministry, wanted to expand the work she was doing, going from feeding the hungry of San Francisco to growing food for those same communities. The St. Paulus Lutheran church was willing to offer an empty lot it owned to her and a dedicated community of volunteers to make a garden.

Meanwhile Tree, a longtime food-justice activist and community gardener as well as the founder of the Mission's popular Free Farmstand, was looking for a place to grow more local food to supply the farmstand. Once Megan's church connections met Tree's gardening expertise, the Free Farm was born. With grants from the Mesa Foundation along with several local Episcopal and Lutheran churches, plus a whole lot of wheelbarrow-pushing volunteer labor, the weedy lot has undergone an astonishing transformation.

What was once a trash-strewn, needle-littered eyesore that neighbors called "The Pit" is now a welcoming, mural-lined space full of neatly mounded raised beds planted with salad mix, potatoes, beans, broccoli and lettuce. Bricks salvaged from the St. Paulus church (which stood on the space before burning down in 1995) now form strawberry beds on the hillside and a winding spiral bed planted with flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Cold frames and a newly built greenhouse are filled with trays of tiny seedlings, everything from kale to tomatoes to marigolds started from seeds donated by church communities across the country. Bright garden-themed murals by local artist Leanne C. Miller cover the concrete wall on the west side, and there are plans to bring more artists and sculptors into the garden to create site-specific works.

Volunteers get down and dirty every Wednesday and Saturday from 10am to 2pm, building infrastructure, hauling mulch, manure and compost, planting seedlings, waterings, and more. A volunteer-made vegan lunch, often featuring produce harvested from the garden, is shared by all. Volunteers will also share in the harvest, with excess supplying the Free Farmstand (Rohrer hopes to establish another neighborhood Free Farmstand on the site) as well as providing fresh local produce for twice-weekly homeless dinners organized by Welcome. (For more information on Welcome's additional garden projects around the Bay Area, go to Urban Share.)

Read the whole article and leave comments about the article at: KQED's Bay Area Bites Blog

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In the News

Free Farm San Francisco - Tonic

Volunteers turn an overgrown lot in San Francisco into a farm that will provide free food.

garden_produce.jpgSan Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the country, which makes the idea for the Free Farm all the more remarkable. The 1/3-acre lot located at the corner of Gough and Eddy streets is planning to provide free food to whomever wants it, with much thanks to a man who goes by the name Tree.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Tree, a resident of the city's Mission District, opened what he called the Free Farm Stand in his neighborhood back in 2008, thanks to donations for the supplies he needed and a lot of hard work from various volunteers. Even though Tree said, "I've always got more people in line than food," he's managed to grow and give away more than 6,000 pounds of food.

Tree oversees the volunteers at the plot of land located at Gough and Eddy, land that used to be "an overgrown space for the homeless, junkies and partying gang members." The Rev. Megan Rohrer, executive director of The Welcome Ministry, a San Francisco nonprofit aiming to end poverty, asked the land's owner, the Lutheran Church, if Welcome could grown food on the lot, and the church agreed, unofficially giving them three to five years. Following a three-month cleanup, seedlings are now being planted and while it could be months until workers start to give out food, it's going to happen.

Not only will it help those in need, but as Tree explained in the article, it also helps the community at large. "Doing things for free encourages people to share. It encourages people to be community, to be family. It provides people the chance to be generous with each other." Let's hope the generosity continues to spread.

See the original: Free Farm San Francisco

Monday, March 22, 2010

In the News - SF Chronicle

From: Free Farm Plants Seeds of Community, Generosity, San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 2010

Free Farm plants seeds of community, generosity

March 22, 2010|By Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer

The folks planting a farm on the corner of Gough and Eddy streets in San Francisco hold no illusion that they'll cure urban blight with a head of lettuce.

They make no claim that a fava bean sown today will reduce the prison population tomorrow.

"I'm a simple person," said a man who goes by the name Tree, a Mission District resident who oversees volunteers as they plunge seedlings into mulch. "We're going to grow food here, and then we're going to give it away to people who need it."

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The 1/3-acre lot, known unofficially as the Free Farm at the Corner of Gough and Eddy Streets, will soon provide free food to anyone who wants it. It's being built and cultivated by a group of people who decided the unused parcel, on a particularly busy Western Addition intersection, was a great place for a peach tree to grow.

And a mulberry tree. And potatoes.

"Doing things for free encourages people to share," Tree said. "It encourages people to be community, to be family. It provides people the chance to be generous with each other."

Tree first put his proverbial money where his mouth is in 2008, when he opened the original Free Farm Stand in his Mission neighborhood at 23rd and Treat streets. Relying on donations for supplies and elbow-grease from volunteers, by his count, he's since grown and given away more than 6,000 pounds of food on Sunday mornings.

"I've always got more people in line than food," he said.

Going home with a plant

Tree also sends visitors away with potted plants and small fruit trees. "I don't know if they go home and plant them, take care of them, or throw them away," Tree said. "I just know that I gave them a plant."

Tree has a salt-and-pepper beard (mostly salt), a diminutive frame, but the thick and soiled hands of a lifetime gardener. He declined to share his birth name because "this story is not about me."

The Rev. Megan Rohrer, executive director of Welcome, a San Francisco nonprofit that works to end poverty, helped start the Gough and Eddy project after she asked the landowner, the Lutheran Church, if the organization could grow food on the church's unused lot. Through Welcome, Rohrer has persuaded about six Bay Area churches to convert vacant land into urban gardens and farms in the past couple years.

The Western Addition lot was once the home of St. Paulus, an ornately designed church with Gothic arches and a towering spier that was destroyed by fire in 1995.

For more than a decade, it was an overgrown space for the homeless, junkies and partying gang members. When Rohrer lead the three-month cleanup effort, it took weeks before she could walk across the soil without hearing the sound of crunching glass.

Value of free food

Rohrer said the church has agreed to let the food farmers use the plot for three to five years, but nothing is in writing.

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"We're secretly hoping the farm will be so exciting they'll let us keep it," Rohrer said. "But I know the realities of the economy, and how much the land must be worth."

The concept of worth, and market value, is something the workers at the Free Farm like to challenge.

To Pancho Ramos-Stierle, a volunteer working the land last week, the worth of a farm that generates free food for a community can exceed the worth of a high-rise condo. Ramos-Stierle met Tree at the Mission Free Farm a few years ago and was so inspired by his generosity he began working at the Karma Kitchen, a cafe in Berkeley that opened in 2007 and operates on a "give what you can" billing system.

Trying to feed everyone

"If the community appreciates it," Ramos-Stierle said of the farm, "it will support our work. No strings attached. ... Why can't there be a re-emergence of a culture of generosity?"

It will be weeks, maybe months, before workers begin handing out roughage and beans, Tree said. It will be at least a year before the fruit arrives.

Yet each passing day another volunteer arrives at the gates and asks to help, and each week seems to lure another interested neighbor.

"We're trying to live with a certain intention," Tree said. "Our intention is to feed everyone. In terms of whether we can accomplish this in this city, I don't know."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Urban Gardening Project in Full Swing

Free Farm

The Free Farm is located in the vacant lot that used to be St. Paulus Lutheran Church (Eddy & Gough in San Francisco), before it burned down in 1995. We’ve partnered with No Penny Opera, Produce For the People, Stanford’s Gleaning Project, the Diocese of California to transform the site into a space for community arts, health education and of course free food for the neighborhood. Currently we’ve completed a mural, built a ramp, steps, a shed and planted strawberries, artichokes and irises. In process is a garden mound labyrinth, a green house and large beds for growing bulk produce. It is estimated that the site will grow 12,000 pounds of produce each year that we will give away for free!

Work days are (vegan lunch provided):
Saturdays 10am-2pm;
Wednesdays 11am-2pm

Little Farm of Bethlehem
At our farm at Bethlehem Lutheran in West Oakland, we are working with the good folk at Urban Farming and the corporate sponsorship of Kraft will provide the topsoil, seedlings and the tools needed to launch the project. A ground breaking celebration will take place on March 20th from 10am-2pm. In addition to the beds created with Urban Farming, we will also be creating a labyrinth garden and working on a mural to spruce up the area around the garden.

Other Garden News
At Christ Church Lutheran (19th and Quintara in San Francisco) we’re filling open tree wells with wild flowers and replacing the bushes with drought resistant plants that help preserve water and create habitats for local birds, bees and butterflies.

The St. Mark’s Lutheran garden ground clearing is complete. This garden will be serve not only the members of St. Mark’s, but also the seniors living at Martin Lutheran Towers.

At Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran in Berkeley will be creating a biblical garden that the congregation will use for Lent, their Bible School and may even allow some local Girl Scouts to get organic gardening badges!

Thanks to our Major Garden Supports
Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.
ELCA Domestic Hunger Program
Episcopal Charities
Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN
The Sam Mazza Foundation
St. Francis Endowment of St. Francis Lutheran Church

Staffing Change

Because of the loss of several major grants, due to restructuring of their giving or closing, the Rev. Jay Wilson’s last day at Welcome will be on April 15th. We are thankful for all the work Jay has done at Welcome during his time with us over the past two years. Below is just one of the many ways Jay enriched our work.

Rev. Jay Wilson, Director of Independent Living
Pastor Jay created a unique power point presentation that talks to kids about poverty and homelessness. Pastor Jay talked to 70 third graders at Argonne Alternative Elementary School and 20 students from the San Francisco Friends School. During these talks students learn about discrimination, disabilities and safe ways to be around people who live on the streets. At the end of each presentation, the students helped us to plant seeds for our garden project, which they will be able to watch grow online at

While not on Welcome’s paid staff, Frida primarily works as Pastor Jay’s assistance dog. Frida has also been working with some of our guests as a therapy dog. In 2009, she worked with guests 40 times.

Creatively Responding to Poverty

Rev. Megan Rohrer, Executive Director
Did you know that Pastor Megan teaches communities and congregations, not only in the Bay Area, but across the country to respond to poverty?

In 2009, Pastor Megan taught 2,458 individuals about poverty issues. One of the most requested talks is called “Servant or Sucker: A Faithful Response to Panhandlers.” Inviting Pastor Megan to your congregation to preach or teach is a great way to direct pulpit supply funds to a justice ministry! Contact to invite Pastor Megan to speak to your congregation or community.

Pete Feltman, Volunteer and Donation Coordinator
Vicar Pete, is an intern from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. In addition to his work coordinating donations and volunteers, Pete also provides music ministry to our guests. Pete not only plays music at our meals to lighten the mood, but he helps our guests play music for and with each other. Using music to help guests learn basic social skills, as pastoral care or to help guests recover from addition, Pete has also been providing individual music lessons for some of our guests. Pete also provides music for Welcome’s weekly worship service each Thursday from 3-4pm.

Case Garver, Program Assistant
Case, a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corp, helps individuals of all social economic backgrounds volunteer at our community gardening spaces. When a long time guest of Welcome who is formerly homeless came to volunteer at the Free Farm, Case helped the guest take breaks, fit in with other volunteers and stay hydrated while working in the sun. Case’s willingness to chat with neighbors has they walk past our gardens has also encouraged many local residents to join us at our workdays each Wednesday and Saturday from 10am -2pm.

Doing More with Less

Throughout this blog, you have probably noticed that Welcome is doing more to directly support those living in poverty and to educate communities about homelessness and poverty than we have ever done before.

We not only have more programs, but we are also serving more people than ever before due to the economic downturn and closure of many other local organizations. At the same time, foundations that we were once able to count on for regular operational support have shifted their focus or stopped giving out money all together. While giving from individuals exceeded our budget in every area, we still had to tap into our rainy day fund in order to make it through 2009.

Thankfully, frugal spending and smart saving in past years was able to help us weather this difficult new economy. This year, Welcome faces the unique challenge of not only raising our general operating expenses, but also replenishing our rainy day funds.

Other organizations like to show that only a small percentage of their budget goes to staff salaries, Welcome works so closely with the community that we are able to get in-kind donations for nearly all of the food, toiletries, garden supplies and other material items that we share with those living in poverty. As a result, almost our entire budget is the salaries of our Executive Director, Director of Independent Living, Intern and Volunteer Corp member.

While the overwhelming majority of our donations come in during November and December (around Thanksgiving and Christmas), the salaries of the Welcome staff are paid evenly throughout the whole year. This year, because we do not have a surplus from 2009, we are currently forced to do more with less than ever before.

Today I ask you not to wait until November or December, and if you can to give your full annual donation now. Your gift today will support the staff of Welcome and help us spend less time fundraising and more time directly work with our guests.

Rev. Megan Rohrer

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Community Learning Opportunities Regarding Disability

Photo from Minneapolis Road to Freedom tour, with a person in a wheelchair approaching the Road to Freedom van, decorated with images from disability rights work

So much of the work that we do with individuals at Welcome is at the intersection of poverty and disability. Here are some free and accessible opportunities to learn more:

A Ramp is Not Enough: A Religion and Disability Conference is a free day-long conference at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Open to the general public, with speakers who are particularly relevant to clergy, members of religious communities, and students. Come see Welcome's Pastor Jay on a panel speaking about how Welcome incorporates anti-ableism and disability rights/independent living work into our daily community life. Don't forget to register if you plan to attend.

Wondering about the history of disabled people working for civil rights in San Francisco and the world? Multi-media from National Public Radio with links to more information.

One local resource for people seeking political, practical, or advocacy information about disability in San Francisco is the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco. Specialists focus on empowering individuals to take charge of their own lives, offering resources varying from help with finding the most helpful adaptive technology, to help with disability-related housing issues, to information about how to make the most of benefits. In fact, their housing advocate has given a Skill Share for Welcome guests, as well as being a frequently-consulted resource for the community. Also to note are some great easy-to-read but information-full publications that you can download.

I'm posting just these three resources for today, but feel free to E-mail me at if you are seeking a particular resource or are wanting more information.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Skill Share Schedule for Winter 2010

Intern Pete and guest sharing music skills
All are welcome to join us in sharing skills for healthy living.

February 4,
2-3 pm
BEYOND SURVIVING TO THRIVING: Struggling to survive uses particular skills and resources to stay alive and safer. When we start meeting our basic needs and accessing resources, new uses for the same skills and new skills can help to be healthier, safer, and more happy in the longterm.
February 11, 2-3pm AGING WITH HEALTH: Guest Presenter Rev. Genie Kinney, Director of the Doris Kraus Senior Center Hear and discuss ways to stay as healthy, active, and mobile as possible while aging with grace. Knock down ageism!
February 18, 2-3pm HYGIENE AND HEALTH: Getting and keeping healthy is easier with some basic hygiene steps. Learn hygiene truths and misconceptions, discuss tips and resources, find paths around common barriers, sample products to practice with and take.
February 25, 2-3pm GARDENING PROJECT UPDATES: Presenter Case Garver, Lutheran Volunteer Corps worker at Welcome Have you heard about Welcome's community garden projects? Case has been setting up garden sites to grow food for meals and giveaway, with lots of volunteer opportunities to garden.
March 4,
IDENTIFICATION ACCESS: Have you heard about Welcome's ID Project? Every year, Jay helps many people to get birth certificates, state ID, Social Security cards, military papers, disabled transit cards, & other IDs. Learn about why ID is important, and how to protect your identity. Bring questions.
March 11, 2-3pm AVOIDING ISOLATION: Feeling lonely? Isolation is a common complication of poverty, disability, and mental health distress. But there are free and easy ways to start building community and building a support network.
March 18, 2-3pm MUSIC FOR HEALTH: Presenter Pete Feltman, pastoral intern & musician Music is a powerful tool toward health and mental health. Hear and see how music can help. All are invited to share in making music, but you're welcome to just listen if you prefer.
March 25, 2-3pm BUGS AND THEIR REMOVAL: Guest Presenter Sara Page Hear about how to get rid of bugs safely and cheaply. Learn about what you can do about bugs in SROs. Bring or submit questions!

Skills Shared and Skill Shares

Volunteer cutting guest's hair at Welcome
Have skills? Want to share them?
Want to learn skills by doing?

At our Tuesday Welcome meals, we have begun sharing professional self-care/body care/hygiene when skilled volunteers are available.

We have begun with a monthly volunteer who has professional haircutting and styling skills, averaging six haircuts each month! It is hard to find free haircuts these days, and at best they are often a rough buzz cut. That is why is to so amazing that a Welcome has committed to providing professional haircuts monthly for Welcome guests.

Maybe you have a skill around self-care or body care that you could share Tuesdays 2-4pm. We are particularly looking for massage, holistic health practitioners, poverty/trauma-informed nursing, relaxation exercises...if you've got a self-care or health professional skill, we would love to talk to you about volunteering two hours monthly with our guests.

Thinking that you are not skilled in such ways? We can use your ordinary and extraordinary gifts in our regular programming, whether in cooking, cleaning, chatting with guests, visiting people who are isolated, or sorting clothing and toiletry donations.

And there is another opportunity if you are skilled in life, health, or nutrition skills- come share with a Health Skill Share class. Staff support includes facilitating discussion, help incorporating various learning styles, ground rules, and providing space and snack set up. Leading a Skill Share involves preparing 30 minutes of presenting or a 50 minute discussion on a particular health skill with time for questions and discussion.

Topics we would like to find skilled community members to cover in the future:
-Foot care
-All sorts of nutrition topics from poverty-informed perspectives
-Legal rights/questions around homelessness, poverty, and SRO housing
-Heart and lungs
-Vision care
-Community politics
-Transportation, pedestrian issues
-Many mental health self-care topics
-Safer sexuality

Interested? Contact Pete Feltman for general volunteering and Tuesday meals or Pastor Jay Wilson for Skill Shares.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sock it To Wet Feet!

Photo Creative Commons:Attribution/ShareAlike by Alyssa (partie traumatic)Photo of tube socks drying

Clean and dry socks help to keep people comfortable and healthy. During the winter months, this is especially important to people living outdoors. Welcome relies on donated items for distribution- which means when we don't get donated socks, we don't have any to distribute. This week, like many weeks, we ran out during our Tuesday programming so about 30 people had to go without.

In an average month, we get more than 200 requests for socks, and we're grateful for the 100 or so pairs that are donated to partially meet this need.

-Men's regular or large sized socks, tube sock (calf length) style are the most useful. Please no tiny socks- donate them instead to organizations that work with many children.

Other things we can use right now:
-Blankets- we have been getting blankets from government surplus, but this year we only received 5 boxes (we've got the last 15 blankets left after 3 weeks).

-Deoderant, strong, not flowery- we rarely get this, and it can make a big difference for job interviews and feeling clean

-Antibiotic cream, like neosporin- injuries happen more often when living outdoors or in bug-infested places, and it's hard to keep them clean and infection free.

-Anti-bacterial soap- we get lots of soap donations, but this is a particular need for people with skin conditions exacerbated by poverty.

-Wet wipes, preferably anti-bacterial

-Men's pants, all sizes

-Warm shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and coats (especially rain gear)

-Scarves, hats, gloves (all adult sized)

-Big shoes, preferably wet-weather appropriate

As many of our guests are indoors but without many resources, we are also seeking some bigger donations to help adjust to living indoors and improve information access:
-Working Televisions, either with a converter box or digital-ready (remember that the deadline for digital converter coupons is past, and the boxes cost $50-100 without)

-Working computers (we don't have access to repair help-unless you'd like to volunteer!)- access to E-mail and good information, ability to type documents, and connection to resources are huge benefits to people seeking employment or stabilization.

Your big and little donations make a big difference for people!
Thank you!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

WELCOME Needs Donations

One of our more recent programs is an interfaith/meditative time of worship every Thursday for any and all that wish to come. There are a number of things we need to do to transform our worship space. The following list of donations would be most helpful to us in making the space as worshipful as possible

    • Unscented white candles of all sizes (especially tea lights)

    • Simple decorative candle holders (with no scent).

    • Cultural tablecloths/tapestries

    • Any framed or sturdy visual art

    • $50 donation to acquire music rights for J. Rundman songs.

    • Recorded/sheet music for simple interfaith songs.

    • Basic craft supplies for adults – such as markers, cardstock, etc (all unscented/non-toxic)

    • Prayer books and/or devotional objects for interfaith.

We are also looking for Volunteers to help with this time of interfaith meditation. Volunteers would help set up/clean up. Any volunteers that would be interested in sharing music, prayer, or crafts would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for considering these needs!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Community Dinners!

On the second and fourth Saturdays of every month, WELCOME hosts a Community Dinner at Old First Presbyterian (1752 Sacramento at Van Ness) for any and all that need a good, hot meal. Our guests usually start lining up to come in around 4pm, and then we open the doors to begin serving at 5:30. We have been serving around 200 people per dinner.

As you might imagine, this sort of undertaking cannot be done without a solid volunteer base. If you or a group that you're involved with would be interested in volunteering with these meals, please email our volunteer coordinator at:

We are currently looking for people or organizations to donate food, paper products, and the time to cook and serve.

Here is a typical rundown of our dinners.

2pm: Cooks arrive and begin prepping and cooking the meal.

4pm: Volunteers begin to arrive. They prep the dining room as they set up tables and chairs (and in some cases decorations!), coffee station, serving station, and clothing distribution room.

The coffee station never fails to see a lot of activity and we're always looking for creamer and sugar donations as our guests love to flavor their coffee.

The serving station is set up in the Munroe Room of Old First, and is simply a few tables with food on them.

The clothing distribution room (which doubles as our guest computer lab during the week) is where we give away all the clothes and toiletries that we receive as donations.

5:15: Volunteers circle up to receive instructions about serving. Generally, every volunteer gets one table which becomes their only responsibility for serving throughout the dinner hour.

5:30: The doors open and our guests file in to find a spot at any of our tables. Then the fun begins!

6:30: Most guests are done eating and volunteers begin the clean-up process. Clean-up usually takes about an hour if all the volunteers are working hard.

The dinners are always well received by our guests – and we attribute this to the fact that we cook tasty, healthy meals and that we provide a safe space for all that need to sit and rest for a little while. Our volunteers have enjoyed the work that they do as well – many of them have become regulars for every meal. Perhaps you would like to as well?

Get in touch with us at: