JUSTICE FOR ALL: GLIDE partners with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights to maintain and grow its Drop-In Legal Clinic

Paul Chavez

Meet Paul Chavez, Senior Attorney and Pro Bono Director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) and the friendly staff attorney at GLIDE’s Drop-In Legal Clinic.

Paul is on hand and on-site at GLIDE two days a week during Clinic hours (currently Monday and Thursday, 2:00 – 5:00pm) to assist GLIDE clients on a walk-in basis with any issue they may have, free of charge. These issues can include anything from housing discrimination to assistance with criminal record expungement or an immigration case. Paul assists wherever he can, either personally representing clients or seeing that their matters are referred to another attorney or agency better suited to help. Sometimes a client comes in with a matter that does not have a legal solution. Paul is still there for them, listening to and affirming their concerns with an eye to helping them move on with their lives.

“For a lot of clients there’s not a legal remedy,” explains Paul, “but I’m able to sit down and help them work through whatever that problem or issue is, so we can get to a result together.”

As the latest addition to its array of wraparound services, GLIDE’s Drop-In Legal Clinic began operation on a pilot basis in September 2013, powered by the initiative and dedication of Charlie Crompton. Inspired by GLIDE’s work and values, Charlie left his position as a litigation partner at the prestigious law firm of Latham & Watkins to devote himself full-time to the development of a free walk-in legal clinic on-site at 330 Ellis Street that would extend GLIDE’s ethic of radical inclusion and unconditional love. In December 2014, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Charlie to a judgeship on the San Francisco County Superior Court. Before leaving, Charlie helped arrange the new partnership with LCCR, on whose board he had served for years.

In managing GLIDE’s Drop-In Legal Clinic, Paul and LCCR take up where Charlie Crompton left off. “We don’t limit it by issue area, so whatever the issue is we’ll try to give advice or a good referral. That’s based on the same model that Charlie had, which is to advise and [where particular expertise is lacking] refer people with a warm handoff to another nonprofit that actually works in that area.”

Of the several hundred clients already served by the Clinic, there are also those whose legal problem might be unusual and require a creative solution. “Sometimes there are problems that are just a kind of one-off legal issue that I know other nonprofits aren’t going to be able to quite cover,” says Paul, who gives as an example a client who had been contacted by a court in Texas with the news of an inheritance. “They wanted him to show up in person,” he explains. “He doesn’t have very stable housing, so getting to Texas was a big issue. But through some of our contacts here we were able to find counsel in Texas willing to go through that process for him pro bono. That was a big win. There was nobody else who would have been able to do that.”

This anecdote exemplifies the effectiveness and commitment of LCCR, a national social justice organization founded in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy in an effort to bring the nation’s lawyers into the African-American–led struggle for civil rights and racial equality then underway.

Paul calls the new partnership between LCCR and GLIDE “a great match,” noting the common origins for both organizations in a civil rights mission. “We share a similar history of civil rights advocacy from the early 1960s,” notes Paul. “That’s our history: to push forward civil rights and serve the marginalized and provide legal services to the most vulnerable among us.”

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A Holistic Care Approach at Glide’s Walk-In Center

Pierre and Tanesh at GLIDE

Pierre and Tanesh, who celebrated their ten-year anniversary last October, have been coming to Glide since 2006.

 

“We came to Glide so much everybody knew us – from the security to the staff members, they all knew our names. We walked in the door and no one judged us. We walked in the door and we were able to receive help, and we were able to be consistent with that,” says Tanesh.

Tanesh and her husband Pierre moved to San Francisco in 2006 to recover from addiction, and came to Glide for help with housing and healthcare, and for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Returning to L.A. for family reasons, Tanesh and Pierre then came back to San Francisco in 2010. Remembering Glide, they went to the Walk-In Center, one of the main entry points to Glide’s services. After six days in a shelter, Walk-In Center case managers secured them an affordable living space and move-in assistance. Walk-In Center staff continued working with the couple, helping them navigate other Glide programs and find better housing later on in support of their recovery process.

“I do believe that in order to have success in your life you have to have a healthy state of mind first,” says Tanesh. She credits a Glide healthcare staff member for going above and beyond to do certain things she and Pierre needed, especially around behavioral health. For Tanesh, prayer and spiritual awakening were key to her recovery. In building community with St. James Infirmary, Black Brothers Esteem, and City of Refuge, Pierre learned about harm-reduction models, which work best for him. Through both of their recovery processes, Pierre says, “We’re able to be consistent, be accounted for, and be productive in our own community. Glide showed me how to live.”

At Glide, they were also able to find some community. “There’s a trans-friendly support group (Bridging the Gap) that meets on Tuesday nights that Teri runs, and that’s where my recovery actually started. Teri was one of – if not the first – trans females I met. Teri was working around the corner at Glide housing, she told me about the group and said, ‘I’m here to support you.’ I knew every Tuesday night I would see the same people, and we all got stronger together,” says Tanesh.

Group meetings took place at the same time as Men In Progress, Glide’s violence prevention program for men, which Pierre participated in. Though he’d learned similar information from other organizations, Men In Progress helped him follow through. “They taught us how to get in touch with our authentic self. That process is – if I can identify who I am, and what triggers me, I can respect you more because you’re not a threat to me. I don’t have to be afraid, I don’t have warrants, I don’t have anyone looking for me, I don’t owe anyone money,” says Pierre.

Tanesh and Pierre currently have stable housing in San Francisco and aim to stay; they celebrated ten years together last October. “It’s home life, church, volunteering in San Francisco, and our grandbabies and daughter. That is our life today,” says Tanesh.

Last November, Tanesh was installed by the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries as the Transgender Minister at City of Refuge. There, she organizes a monthly meet-and-greet for trans women and men. She runs a weekly prayer conference line every Saturday, and helps prepare the sanctuary at City of Refuge every Sunday. This month, Tanesh was also sponsored to join representatives from St. James and TGI Justice Project to participate in the Color of Violence INCITE! 15th Anniversary Conference in Chicago.

Pierre also wears many hats – ushering and doing the bulletins for City of Refuge, and doing street outreach with St. James in San Francisco. He is currently working on a support group for transgender people and their partners and families. “The life that I live – I love who I love and I accept them for who they are. Today, I introduce myself as a cisgender male who’s married to a transgender female. I identify as “them” or “they,” in support of all the people – not just transgender – who have ever faced injustice and prejudice. If it wasn’t for their past, I wouldn’t have a future,” says Pierre.

GLIDE Walik-In Center staff members

GLIDE Walk-In Center staff members.

Last year, GLIDE’s Walk-In Center provided over 3,000 unduplicated clients with rental assistance, clothing vouchers, client advocacy, and more. “We strive to provide a holistic care approach by offering our clients access to multiple services to support them in meeting their goals. We help clients navigate our many programs to meet a variety of needs such as shelter, food, health, and spiritual support,” says Ana, Walk-In Center Manager, who helped Pierre and Tanesh secure their housing. “A lot of times we’re just a way for people to stay connected. Help can come in many forms, from the tangible things we do like handing out a toothbrush or assisting a family with their security deposit, to just being present in the moment through grief, celebration, or during a time of crisis in someone’s life. Listening seems simple, but it is those priceless exchanges that we have with our clients that keep them coming back. Those real human connections make us accessible and are as much of a fundamental need as the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

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What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love

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Eleven years ago, I was sitting in my church office in Noe Valley when I received an unbelievable call: San Francisco was issuing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples?! One quick internet search and confirmed:  lesbian icons Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin had been married earlier in the day and now couples from throughout the city as well as the state (and shortly thereafter, from across the country) were streaming into City Hall to be married.

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I performed nine weddings during our Winter of Love (and faced the possibility of a church trial for doing them, but that’s another blog). It wasn’t the first time I had performed ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. I had been doing them since 1982. But this was the first time I had performed legal weddings for gay/lesbian couples.

The impact in our City was immediate and profound: it was as if the whole city had become one big wedding reception. Toasts were offered on city streets. Workplaces threw parties of congratulations. Love seemed to multiply joy exponentially, and it was felt in every corner of SF.

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The rest of the United States is quickly learning what we discovered eleven years ago: every couple deserves to have their love legally honored and respected. It is good for the couple. It is good for families. It is good for communities.

Granting this legal right/rite to gay/lesbian couples has not—as conservative pundits predicted—destroyed the institution of marriage. In fact, if my work calendar is any indication, it has strengthened it as more and more couples are coming forward to be legally wed. Usually, I perform just a handful of weddings a year. This year, however, my weekends are pretty full officiating at weddings!

What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love   Eleven years ago, I was sitting in my church office in Noe Valley when I received an unbelievable call: San Francisco was issuing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples?! One quick internet search and confirmed:  lesbian icons Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin had been married earlier in the day and now couples from throughout the city as well as the state (and shortly thereafter, from across the country) were streaming into City Hall to be married.

I will never understand why any government official, religious leader, or family member would stand in opposition to marriage equality.  The ability to give and receive love is an essential part of our humanness. Love doesn’t isolate us but connects us to others in ways that increases our capacities for care and compassion. Love is essential for healthy communities and one look around will confirm that the world is in desperate need of more love.

This Valentine’s Day, I am remembering all the couples I have married (or am about to marry). I pray that they may have discovered within their relationship a love that has not only helped them grow more fully into the persons they have been created to be, but has also enlarged their embrace to include a world that is in need of healing touch, generous givers, and lovers of justice.

Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto is GLIDE's Senior Pastor.

Photo by Lisa Wiseman

Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto is GLIDE's Senior Pastor. Follow Karen @RevKarenOliveto and her blog.








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Somewhere In-Between

Reshared from the Huffington Post originally posted on February 12, 2015 by Felicia Horowitz. Felicia is a beloved member of the GLIDE family. 

“And these children that you spit on As they try to change their worlds Are immune to your consultations They’re quite aware of what they’re going through”

– David Bowie

When I was a little girl, I was a hair dressing prodigy and in my community that made me a big deal. For the black women of my neighborhood, hair was critically important. Hair was not simply hair; it was the crown that determined one’s social status. The more stylish the hair, the more important the person. This bizarre social casting system put anyone with hair skills in very high demand. And boy did I have skills.

I have always had an artistic eye and when combined with my exceptionally dexterous fingers, intense attention to detail and outstanding bedside manner, I was the Mozart of hair. I was such a natural that before I could read the instructions on the Revlon hair relaxer box, women in my family entrusted me to apply the powerful hair straightening chemicals to their scalps. By the time I entered high school, I was the go to hairdresser for my friends and family.

While I had a different ambition in life than being the world’s greatest stylist, I always dreamed of having daughters and doing their hair. What an amazing bonding experience that would be! How great to be the very best hairdresser that money couldn’t buy. You want the best “Do” at your junior high school? Well, you have to be my daughter to get that.

After I grew up, I was fortunate to have three lovely daughters and I could not wait to do their hair. When they were very little, they all loved it and it was one of my happiest memories as a young mom. But as my eldest child Julia, grew up, I was shocked and horrified to find that she hated having her hair done by me or anyone else.

This was a change that I could not stomach. How could she not want to look fierce? How could she take away this wonderful experience? What about the crown? We would battle it out every week over the hair. To give you and idea of the intensity, it was like a steel cage match, with the prize being a hairdo. Finally, in elementary school, we compromised and Julia kept her hair in braids.

Julia kept her feelings very close and me asking why she did not want me to do her hair could cause a major meltdown. Although I had minor suspicions, they were always proved wrong. For 15 years, I never understood why we battled over hair.

To continue reading the full post from Felicia Horowitz, please visit the Huffington Post.

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Happy Korematsu Day! Stand Up for What Is Right

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by Kristen Growney Yamamoto, GLIDE’s Co-Executive Director 

“If you have a feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.”  Fred Korematsu

FredKorematsuinlaterlifeToday, January 30th is Korematsu Day, a holiday honoring Fred Korematsu, an American hero who stood up for civil rights even when he was punished for it.  As a young man, he protested the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and was arrested. While imprisoned, he sued the government to acknowledge their mistake and to protect his civil rights as an American. When the Supreme Court ruled against him, saying it is legal to imprison Japanese Americans because of their ancestry, he still did not give up. For forty years, he continued to speak up. With an amazing team of lawyers from San Francisco at his side including from Dale Minami, Lorraine Bannai, Edward M. Chen, Dennis Hayashi, Peter Irons, Karen Kai, Leigh-Ann Miyasato, Robert Rusky, Donald Tamaki, and Eric Yamamoto in 1983, his conviction was overturned and the government admitted its mistake.

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My father-in-law turns 90 years old in a few days.  He is a Sansei, a third generation Japanese American and he, along with his family, spent several years of his childhood imprisoned in Tule Lake Camp in Northern California. When I see old photographs of children from the Tule Lake Camp, I can’t bear to look close, lest it be my children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles.   I want my children and their friends to understand the story of Mr. Korematsu as the story of an ordinary citizen who stood up to injustice in the wake of great criticism.

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I taught a lesson to my daughter’s class this morning and we talked about standing up, and how hard it is, especially when privilege is granted to those who are not being discriminated against. We did a simple exercise of separating the kids with blue sneakers from the rest, and granting extra recess to those who were not wearing blue sneakers.  Some wanted the extra recess and left the ‘blue sneakers’ behind. Those who got the extra time felt happy and lucky.  Yet after a while, the class started to coalesce around it not being fair.  It takes a brave person to speak up, and we all have the opportunity, every day, to stand up for what is right.

P1200413This afternoon, I shared the same lesson with Paul Chilvers’ 4th- 5th grade classroom at GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC). We did a simple exercise of separating the kids with an S in their first name from the rest of the classroom, and following the lesson shared an afternoon snack of potato chips with those without an S in their first name. The kids without the chips felt left out, the kids who were eating their chips also felt the injustice of the situation. Slowly, both groups realized they had the ability to change the situation, and they spoke up for what they felt was right. The youth with chips stood in solidarity with the youth without chips, and together, demanded all students be treated equal. In the end, it was a potato chip party for all.

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We celebrate the legacy of Fred Korematsu, his story and struggle for justice continues to be an inspiration and great lesson for all.

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The Critical Importance of Legal Representation

GP 2 14-604When people refer to the “justice gap” in the United States, they usually mean the unequal treatment of people in our criminal justice system. But the gap extends to our civil justice system, too. Unlike criminal defendants who normally get public defenders, parties in civil matters, including immigration matters, usually are not entitled to publicly-funded lawyers. And parties who can’t afford lawyers to represent them are more likely to lose their cases than represented parties.

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Access to Justice for Immigrant Families and Communities, a recent study issued jointly by Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and the Northern California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (NCCIK), confirms this. It shows that immigrants held in custody while awaiting deportation are three times as likely to win the right to remain in the United States as those without lawyers. Immigrants with representation were able to establish that they were entitled to stay in the United States because they were targets of persecution, victims of domestic crimes, or members of U.S. Citizen Families facing hardships – 33 percent of the time. By contrast, unrepresented immigrants were able to do so only 11 percent of the time.

For our Country’s adversarial legal system to operate fairly, both sides need to have lawyers. That’s why we started the Drop-In Legal Clinic at GLIDE – to help fill the justice gap. The Clinic provides free legal assistance the GLIDE way – unconditionally, to all types of clients, in all types of cases. Since the Clinic’s founding in September 2013, over 220 clients have been helped with their criminal and civil cases. Many of these cases involve immigration issues like the ones described in the Stanford study.

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San Francisco’s Proposition J: Into Action With The Minimum Wage at GLIDE

propJ-logoI’m excited to see that Proposition J, the minimum wage increase for San Francisco, is supported by the majority of people in San Francisco and is likely to pass in November. I’m excited because:

Every week I talk to people who will be affected by this law, and I keep hearing their stories, like what it is like to work for $11.03 per hour, commuting almost two hours each way by bus and BART from Vallejo for a four hour shift, paying $18.60 for transit on a day when your net pay will be less than $35 even after the tax refund you won’t get until next year. I ask these folks why they even choose to do this, day after day, a choice that looks economically irrational to me. I ask this in part because my middle class upbringing tried to brainwash me into believing that economics rules behavior and that poor people are lazy. This is what I hear in response to my question: “Because I want to work,” from someone who recently got out of prison. “Because I believe in what we are doing,” from someone who helps coordinate our Free Meals program. “Because people gave me a second chance with this job, and I want to pay my debt to this community,” from someone who used to sell drugs. “Because I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished here,” from someone who worked in the restaurant industry for years and decided to stop drinking when he started working with us. These are people who could probably be making more money outside of the formal employment system – heck, they could probably make more money panhandling two blocks away. These are people supporting school-age children. But they choose to work, and it’s completely insane to me that we in the Bay Area have allowed people to work for years at below-subsistence wages just because we could, because there is an abundance of labor willing to take a job that barely pays for itself.

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Photograph by Lisa Wiseman

I myself used to work in the service industry before coming to GLIDE, in a city about 30 miles south of SF. I started at $8.00 an hour, and two years later I was an assistant manager running the daily retail floor and overseeing the training of over 35 staff – earning $13.90. My employer had policies that were Walmart-like in punishing even a minute of unauthorized overtime but requiring an extensive set of closing responsibilities, tacitly encouraging us to “donate” time to the business by working overtime off-the-clock, and I could not take a regular second job because my schedule got shifted every quarter, I was given random shifts and split weekends that preempted my availability to consistently work outside or have a regular childcare setup (if I had kids, which thankfully for them I don’t.) If you still haven’t had a chance to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, I can tell you it’s even more relevant today, with San Francisco increasingly split into knowledge workers and workers in the service sector.

GP 2 14-257Right at the top of my list of things to be happy about is the fact that at GLIDE we have decided to increase the wages of our lowest-paid workers ahead of the proposed city ordinance, mostly because we are convinced it’s the right thing to do, but also to step out in front and be a part of the solution here in San Francisco. At GLIDE, we see more and more working folks accessing our Free Meals programs because they can’t pay for both housing and food. That’s not justice to us.

Some history: At GLIDE we had, until this year, pretty much just kept pace with the minimum wage – for SF employers with city contracts, the minimum wage for the last 7 years has been stuck at $11.03/hour. That means that any contracts we have with the city are based on jobs paying $11.03, and if we pay more than that, we are paying from the foundation’s unrestricted funds a.k.a. checks and cash from the individuals and families like you who support us.

GP 2 14-249In June, however, GLIDE began a conscious effort to move our own folks towards a living wage. In addition to raising the starting minimum to $11.50/hour, we gave substantial bump up (by $1.50-$2.50) to the wages of staff earning less than $20/hour who have been here for three years or more. We used a tiered formula for the increases that financially prioritized our lowest wage staff.

Inside of GLIDE, we believe that it is worth something to have a workforce of people serving the poor who are not themselves compelled to be in financial distress. Our services to the homeless and poor residents of the city will be better for it. We also know our jobs are supporting families. We decided to move ahead of Proposition J and make a statement about our support for living wages for all the city’s workers.

GP 2 14-604We also made these changes because it’s in our mission to be breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and dependence, and we can see that paying just the City’s minimum wages could actually be contributing to intergenerational poverty. Low wages also exacerbate the un-affordability of San Francisco’s rental and housing market, and poor people deserve clean, safe local housing as much as anyone – check out GLIDE’s 80 family apartments at 125 Mason St. if you want to see what we think good affordable housing looks like. San Francisco is grounded in the huge range of people who can participate in the public life of this city. When poor people are pushed out, and when the voices of working class artists, communities of color and LGBT runaways are diminished, San Francisco will be at risk of being the kind of straitjacketing, non-accepting monoculture that many of us moved here to escape. We will have brought our own hell with us.

G Tday11-121At GLIDE, the joy you see here at Sunday morning Celebrations and the welcome people feel every day of the week in our programs aren’t because we are nice people. It’s because everyone, homeless or housed, movie star or coffee barista, undocumented worker or Mayflower scion – everyone – can have a place at the table here. This level of diversity forces us to get real instead of hiding behind niceness, and the acceptance it takes to make this all work changes the entire social equation.

All of these decisions have an explicit cost, just as they would in a restaurant or other business. Our planned increases will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years. Choosing to implement these raises took grit and careful planning by our executive team. We’re not sure how we’ll pay for these increases, and I’m still not convinced it’s enough. There have been some of us who are worried that we might not be able to sustain the increases, and could eventually have to cut essential service programs in order to keep a balanced budget. If the City’s Proposition J does pass, some relief will come through marginal increases in contracts and grants funding we receive. We think our donors will support our decision to move towards a living wage for all our regular staff, by continuing to support GLIDE’s work through the years. In any case, we are stepping out with the change – it will be better for our staff and ultimately for all the people we serve here in the city. Like I said before, it’s the right thing to do.

Justice starts at home, and I’m proud that GLIDE is always on the path that heads there. In the area of living wages and income inequality, these recent wage increases are a start. May we continue to walk at the front of society’s long arc towards justice.

JBL_30Love smallJames B. Lin is the Co-Director of Human Resources and Organizational Integration at GLIDE


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Warm thanks to a team from Zynga who helped Glide serve breakfast to hundreds of Glide's clients this morning. @zynga, #feedthehungry Feeding souls at Glide. Thank you for your weekly volunteering, Robert Griffith, engineer @twitter. #volunteeringinsf, #friedchickenthursday Thank You to True Ventures for your compassion in action, serving nearly 800 meals on Fried Chicken Thursday at GLIDE! #glidesf Thanks go out to The Gap for being loyal volunteers. #glidesf @gap

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