Welcome began as a series of conversations between twelve churches in the Polk Gulch District of San Francisco. Many of the homeless individuals we work with are LGBTQ individuals who came to San Francisco as young adults, due to discrimination in their hometowns. After the gay community on Polk Street was decimated by HIV/AIDS, hundreds of adults found themselves homeless.
Our oldest programs serve food to the homeless and hungry at Old First Presbyterian Church near Polk Street (8,436 participants each year). Eating with our guests and listening to their needs, our subsequent programming has been designed to meet the needs of our guests. In 2009, our Homeless Identification Project, enabled more than 150 individuals to move indoors in one year.
As the population of older LGBTQ adults began to get housing, Welcome began working on programming with homeless LGBTQ youth (over 556 youth). In 2009, Welcome partnered with the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco to use history to help the youth express themselves, educate others (over 12,576 participants) and become civically active. A nationwide speaking tour at churches and shelters for LGBTQ homeless youth enabled us to listen to the needs of youth around the country and provided the groundwork for a conference of LGBTQ homeless youth that will gather in Washington D.C in October of 2013.
During the height of the economic downturn in 2010, Welcome created six community gardens on unused church land around the Bay Area to serve the new population of homeless and hungry individuals. The Free Farm, our largest garden, has grown and given away over 9,000 pounds of produce to local residents and feeds 576 participants a year in San Francisco’s Western Addition.
In 2012, Welcome began providing nationwide educational opportunities (over 15,786 participants a year) that enable others replicate our programs and learn about the issues that affect the homeless and hungry in San Francisco.
This year, Welcome doubled the number of individuals we feed by partnering with St. Francis Lutheran Church in the Castro/Duboce Triangle neighborhood of San Francisco. This partnership will further support homeless and hungry LGBTQ individuals with HIV/AIDS (about 5,700 participants a year) and local seniors (1,700 participants a year).
In 2013, Welcome will feed 16,392 participants in San Francisco and provide educational opportunities for 28,362 individuals throughout the country.