As Mother to Two

Heather Knight’s recent San Francisco Chronicle article “Talking to Children about Homeless” is well-done, and I thoroughly agree with the article’s two messages to keep it simple with your children and to model compassion.  As a mother raising two elementary school-aged children in San Francisco, the topic of homelessness comes up regularly whether we are we are driving to school, walking through our neighborhood, or shopping downtown.


Since preschool, my kids have been consistently taught about the dangers of stereotypes.  One problem I notice is that so many of us use the word “homeless” to describe all people hanging out on the streets—whether they are panhandling, sitting, camping, lying down or looking disheveled. It might feel helpful to group them as “homeless” and yet by doing so, we lump people together in a way that makes it hard to see them as the unique individuals that they are.  Our community’s poorest and most vulnerable are unique, colorful, and human with the same wants and needs that each of us holds.

When we talk to our children about the people we see on the street, we have to take the risk of engaging with what comes next— “I don’t like homeless people” or something like “homeless people are dangerous” or “the homeless are …”. As a leader at GLIDE and someone who walks through the Tenderloin every day, I know these statements aren’t true and they sadden me. I try to teach my kids to pause when we come across an uncomfortable situation. Rather than jumping into a labeling statement that dismisses the person or people we see, we talk about feeling scared in an uncertain interaction, or acknowledge the discomfort of walking through a group of people sitting on the sidewalk. My girls say this helps them know it’s okay to have feelings of uncertainty and to separate those feelings from the people they see.

The discomfort we identify may also be the sadness of so many people not having a bed to sleep in last night, or a dry spot to get out of the rain.  Eye contact, a hand out, making space for someone who may be wobbly on their feet goes a long way.  In my early twenties, I remember reading an article in a Boston daily written by a Harvard student who panhandled and slept in a shelter. As he described his experience he said none of it was as horrible as no one looking at him or acknowledging him in some way.  I’ve held that thought with me all these years and do my best to “see” everyone.  For kids with an adult, eye contact or a greeting is ok. Also, observing adult actions like acknowledging someone who says hi to you or asking someone struggling “are you okay?” allows us to build empathy and make a connection with those who differ from us.

Volunteering to serve a meal as your kids get older is a valuable way to expose yourself and your family to the diverse needs of the homeless and poor in our community.  The comment I hear most from first time volunteers at GLIDE is “I was surprised by who I saw in line to receive a free meal. It doesn’t necessarily line up with what I imagined.”  Poverty is widespread in this great City. Thousands of individuals and families, homeless and housed, need our compassion and support.  Ultimately, for my children, I want them to find connections with others, not build walls that separate us.

Not all of the conversations I have with my kids go well, and yet I keep trying.  As I see it, my job as a parent is to build awareness, understanding and the tools for talking about challenges in our community. Learning to do this is a process for all of us.  If parents can recognize these conversations as “one of many,” children will reflect back to you their thoughts, ideas and worries. My children regularly surprise me with their thoughtfulness and concerns. That’s real life and we’re taking it one step at a time!

By Kristen Growney-Yamamoto, GLIDE's Co-Executive Director
Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in GLIDE Leadership, Volunteer at GLIDE
GLIDE Instagram
Join GLIDE at the SF @marchforourlives this Saturday to support young people in demanding #GunControlNow! We'll meet at GLIDE at noon and walk to Civic Center together. Where your GLIDE gear if you have it, and click the link in our profile to read more about why gun control is a priority advocacy issue at GLIDE.
#marchforourlives #parkland #enough #IWillMarch @momsdemand @bradybuzz @sfmagazine @sfchronicle @theonj3 @angelabrown17 @sf_interfaith Today, GLIDE Harm Reduction partnered with @sfaidsfound, SFDPH and SF Homeless Outreach Team to conduct a health care pop-up at a homeless encampment. It was a great community effort and the Harm Redux crew reports that the residents of the camp really appreciated that we were there for them. GLIDE provided HIV/Hep C Testing and counseling. In spite of the rain, 21 people used our testing services, and many more just came to us to talk about their drug use and receive harm reduction counseling.
We're grateful to this crew! Left to right: Paul Harkin, Amber Taylor, Bill Buehlman and Jason Norelli. #rainorshine #harmreduction #healthcareisahumanright #gettested #healthcareforall GLIDE Church invites you to stand up for smart, sensible gun control laws at the San Francisco March For Our Lives Rally on Saturday, March 24!
WHO: GLIDE Church. And YOU!
WHAT: SF March For Our Lives
WHERE: We will meet at GLIDE at noon and then walk over to Civic Center Plaza together as a group.
WHY: Our children should not have to live in fear of gun violence AT ALL, much less at school. Our teachers should not have to add "taking a bullet" to their job descriptions. We raise our voices in solidarity and demand a safer, more peaceful future for our children, our teachers and our country.
WHEN: Saturday, March 24. The rally starts at 1:00 pm, but we will meet at GLIDE at noon!
Additionally, we will make posters for the rally THIS SUNDAY on March 18 after the 11:00 am Celebration.
If you have any questions, please contact our beloved Rev. Angela Brown at
#ENOUGH #Guncontrol #gunsense #safeschools #parkland #columbine #LasVegas #marchforourlives  @womensmarch @womensmarchbayarea @momsdemand @gabbygiffords @100daysaction @bayresistance @glidefycc @kaye_foster @everytown On Wednesday, the children & teachers from GLIDE's Family, Youth & Childcare Center (FYCC) joined thousands of other students across the nation in the #NationalSchoolWalkout. Our FYCC teachers stress the importance of being community-minded thinkers and global citizens. Demanding #GunControlNow and safety in our schools is an important lesson for our kids, as well as a compassionate and powerful act of solidarity with the #Parklandhighschool students & all victims of school shootings.
Gun control is also a crucial advocacy issue for GLIDE — fighting for our children's education, well-being and their very lives is a direct application of our values and one of the most meaningful efforts to get involved in today.

Much love and support to FYCC and to all the young people across the country who raised their fists in defiance, resistance and mourning. We are with you.
@glidefycc @bayresistance @momsdemand @cityhallsf @100daysaction #keepchildrensafe #safeschools #banassaultweapons #forthekids #ENOUGH #rainorshine

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