These Moments of Humanity

by Val Green, Walk-In Center’s Epworth Summer Intern

When I arrived at GLIDE at 6:30 a.m. last Wednesday, the building was already alive with chatting, laughing, shouting. It was my first day making shelter reservations entirely alone, and I was nervous. What if there were no beds? What if I had to turn people away? What if clients got frustrated with me? The night before, I asked my co-worker Jasmine to sleep with her phone turned on in case I needed her for information or help with the reservation database. When I arrived at the Walk-In Center Wednesday morning, I placed a Post-It with her contact information next to the phone and plopped down at the desk.

Just five minutes after I began making reservations, I was finished because there were no more beds available, and I realized I had nothing to worry about. The morning was calm. And as I sat in the Walk-In Center with Jerome, the security monitor, a couple of remarkable things happened.

A regular case management client walked in around 8:00 a.m. and looked around the room for Ana, his case manager. Though I have learned bits about his story throughout my internship, I have never directly worked with him. I told him that Ana would be in later on and I suggested he come back in an hour. For my first four weeks in the Walk-In Center, he ignored me when he came for meetings with Ana. Last week, he called me, “Whatever-Your-Name-Is” and dismissively waved his hand at me. But that morning, he greeted me with a smile and said, “Hi, Val.” Then he left.

Ten minutes later, another familiar client dashed in asking for Angela, who normally makes the morning shelter reservations. I apologized and explained that Angela was on vacation, and asked, “Is there anything I can help you with this morning?” He ran out. About a minute later, he came back into the Walk-In Center and stood at my desk. He looked me straight in the eyes and he said, “No, thank you, I am okay.” Then he left.

I worked with a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

As I finish my nine-week internship at GLIDE, I do not feel ready to leave. I have finally learned the ropes here—I have a group of clients I frequently work with, I feel I am becoming a part of the Walk-In Center’s tight-knit team, and I am finally developing a handle on the unique sense of community and core values here. I will miss San Francisco, the Tenderloin, GLIDE, my friends and co-workers, and the wonderful clients I have met.  But most of all, I will miss these moments of humanity. Although I never directly worked with the two men I described above, I watched as they fought for truth and love when they walked through the doors at GLIDE. Last Wednesday, I became a part of their fight.

You might be thinking that remembering someone’s name is not all that important or popping back in to say “no thanks” only takes a moment. But last Wednesday, those two clients both offered me an invitation to join them and to connect to them. Those interactions were the two biggest compliments I received all week.

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GLIDE Instagram
Joyce Hayes, celebrating life, love and GLIDE with @doricamino and @edenchanstreetscooper at the 2014 Holiday Jam. A retro photo of Joyce Hayes, a true GLIDE hero, who so strongly believed in supporting children and providing them with stability, education and #unconditionallove. GLIDE regrets to tell our community that Joyce Hayes, an icon in our history and childcare program, passed away on Tuesday, 5/23/2017. Her life, love and legacy will not be forgotten. 
Please take a moment to read this tribute to our beloved "Joy": glidesf.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/in-memory-of-joyce-hayes-the-heartbeat-of-glides-fycc/ Shout-out @blueshieldofca volunteers! Our Harm Reduction Team always needs people to help assemble safer injection kits. Distributing these kits to our community members who inject drugs greatly reduces the spread of Hep C and HIV. It's about #publichealth and recognizing the dignity and human rights of ALL people living in our city! #harmreduction #cleansharps

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