“Just as meaningful as any meal”

Finding human connection and help while on the streets.

Homelessness can happen to anyone. Michael can testify to that. At one point in his life, Michael was someone who seemed to “have it all.” But life is unpredictable, and our footing is often more precarious than we think. Michael is now stable, doing well and pursuing a fulfilling professional and personal life again. He generously shared his story with us (edited and condensed in the following version) in the hope of encouraging both understanding and perseverance. We must remember to see ourselves in the faces of those who don’t have a home.

Michael Davis


My trouble really began in 2010. I had never even tried a drug until 2010.

I lost a $2 million house and an 841 credit score. When all of that was taken away, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Let’s throw in a bad relationship on top of that—my partner actually broke my leg. He pushed me down a flight of stairs. At that point you feel like the world and everything is against you. Now I’m in a new understanding that I have to own all of that. But that is a hard pill to swallow when you’re confused and in pain and your paradigm of life is completely thrown out the window.

In a six-year span I went to six rehabs. I’d come out of these rehabs and, because of the dynamic of my family, disjointed relationships, pride and a whole bunch of other reasons, I would have to live in a homeless shelter. And try to put on a suit and tie and try to get a job while I was in a homeless shelter. Talk about swimming up a stream. Trying to pull myself together to look professional often resulted in things getting stolen, me getting beat up, all kind of things. It was daunting at best.

That I was the idiot who actually went to college, and showed up for work every day, and saved my money and had perfect credit, had bought and sold five houses and started my own business, [and was now] the guy wandering the streets without a place to lie down…It made me so furious.

“At one point in my life I was “designer guy in Laguna Beach” with a fancy house and a fancy car. . . . If all of this had not happened, I would’ve been somebody that I don’t want to be. We don’t know what people’s tragedies are.”

Thankfully, I was able to tap into resources here in this city, GLIDE being one of them, where you feel like someone is listening to what it is that you need.

During the period when I was having a hard time looking anybody in the eyes, GLIDE invited me in, looked me straight in the eyes, knowing exactly where I was, without conversation, when I was literally hungry and really not knowing how to figure my way out of my own box. I was humanized when I was feeling dehumanized by every other person, entity and organization. Even the entities that were considered “help,” like hospitals, were shaming.

What do you do in that circumstance, when you’re so far down that your basic needs aren’t being met? What do you do? You numb out. Why wouldn’t you? The tasks are too daunting, there are too many of them, you have no resources left. Especially your main resource, which is your brain. It’s a vicious cycle where you’re pouring water on your keyboard expecting your computer to work.

That little step forward of having my belly full allowed me to take the next step to something else, like maybe getting case management. Otherwise the physical pain in addition to the emotional pain is way too much. And if you have no solutions, no money in your pocket, no one to listen to you and you’re roaming the streets on your own, it is terrifying.

And you’re expected to have normal conversations with people. You’re expected to have manners. You’re expected to say “please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” When you have so much rage in yourself about what’s just occurred, to be met with a smile and someone looking you straight in the eye, is the fuel that you need to be able to rethink your position on the planet. It’s so simple and basic, yet when you’ve gone down that far, just being able to meet one of those basic needs could take you a week.


GLIDE’s dining room

Coming to the GLIDE Meals Program, it was surprisingly new and nice. When you’re in gatherings with the people who are under the same levels of stress as you, sometimes it can be scary—it was for me. But GLIDE felt orderly, it felt safer than most of the surrounding areas and it felt clean. 

And the food was good, and it was healthy, and I remember thinking, “This is the first cooked meal I’ve had in months.” You can get an EBT [California Electronic Benefit Transfer] card but that card can’t get you any cooked food. And if you have nowhere to go, then you have nowhere to cook it. So, really, you’re buying packaged food that can’t be heated.

“When you have so much rage in yourself about what’s just occurred, to be met with a smile and someone looking you straight in the eye, is the fuel that you need to be able to rethink your position on the planet.”

What I think is extremely helpful is that at GLIDE you are able to go in for your basic need of food and then to be educated on the resources that are out there to help you. It’s imperative.

I remember in my darkest times—and I’m going to be very bold here, in the times that I was most high and unhealthy, and even when I knew that I was a wreck and not presenting well and being angry and frustrated—for someone to offer respect to me no matter how high I was, I recognized it. Even when I was in my worst state, I was still cognizant enough to be able to recognize it. Which, believe it or not, is just as meaningful as any meal. I’ll never forget it.

I’ve had people on the street outside [where I work] ask me for money, because they see me totally differently now, and I’ll look them in the eyes and say, “I don’t have money for you but just keep going, you’re going to make it.”

At one point in my life I was “designer guy in Laguna Beach” with a fancy house and a fancy car. I had all of this stuff. Talking about this makes me cry. If all of this had not happened, I would’ve been somebody that I don’t want to be. We don’t know what people’s tragedies are.

Everybody is worth the opportunity to re-think their position on the planet.

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Posted in Faces of GLIDE, GLIDE Free Meals, GLIDE values, Uncategorized
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Today we’d like to honor Fredie. He’s been volunteering with GLIDE Harm Reduction for two years, helping to assemble safer injection and smoking kits and organizing other volunteers to help him in this important task. Considering he also works, volunteers at other orgs, practices yoga and tai chi and has four beloved great-grandchildren, we are amazed and grateful that he dedicates time every week to the health of our community. . “I’ve been with GLIDE for the last two years. I like what I do. I do a little bit of everything; I make [safer injection] kits, and I teach other volunteers how to make them… the team goes out tonight [Tuesday] with the kits to give them out. . I just like giving back, volunteering. I come every week. I would come two or three times a week, but I work six days. The only day I have off is Sunday, and I go to church on Sunday. Everything out in the street, I done did it — dealing, using, all of that. Now I don’t do any of it. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. The only thing I drink is coffee, and soda once in awhile. . I wait for these days. I wait for Tuesday. I have a lot of doctors’ appointments, but I make them early in the morning so that I can come to GLIDE.” . Thank you for all you do for GLIDE and the San Francisco community! We love you, Fredie! . #NVW2018 #nationalvolunteerweek #givingback #harmreduction #localheroes
It's #nationalvolunteerweek! Hats off to Emmett and Masumi, who served breakfast today. Emmett has been volunteering weekly at GLIDE for 15 years! He says that he enjoys starting the week in a positive manner. Thanks to you both! #NVW2018 #givingback #mondaymotivation #positivevibes
Today we want to show some love to our stellar volunteer, Roma! Roma started volunteering at GLIDE last year, and she is currently a sophomore at Lick Wilmerding High School. She had become a beloved fixture in our Meals Program, bringing a lot of energy, joy and kindness to the dining hall. We love and appreciate you, Roma! #VolunteerAppreciationMonth #Community #GivingBack . “Over the summer I was trying to find a place where I could volunteer for a week or so, and I knew Michael Lezak, who had just started working here. So I asked him about it and then came here. The experience made me love GLIDE; it’s just such a great community and there are so many different things you can do. On Thursdays I come to serve a meal, but I also like to volunteer in other areas. When I came here over the summer, I helped with the surveys for the Meals Program. I put those onto the computer, which was pretty intense! I also visited other programs, like the Women’s Center and Speak Out, and now I’m going to the meetings that lead up to the Alabama trip. . Of all the places that I’ve volunteered, GLIDE just seems like such a fun and open environment. There are so many different groups of people and vibes you get from different places. Down in the Meals hall it’s loud and crazy and fun. You meet people who are homeless, people who are housed and just coming for a meal, you get to meet other volunteers, and the staff who organize Meals like James Sampaga and Gucci and Joann. Also, there are people like James Lin who is very smart and thoughtful about everything he says. I feel like I learn so much when I come here, everyone has so much knowledge that I just don’t have!”
Every Monday and Tuesday night, GLIDE’s Ellis Street entrance becomes a one-stop shop for free #harmreduction supplies, such as syringe access, safe sex supplies, safer injection and smoking kits, community resources and more. We are very grateful to the volunteers who dedicate their evenings to the health and dignity of our neighbors. Pictured here is our Monday night crew: Evan Burke, Tad S., Deborah Yip, Jalen Benson, Melanie Regan, Chris D., Bella King and Matt Nussbaum. A heartfelt thanks to all of them. #VolunteerAppreciationMonth #volunteerSF #SyringeAccess #PublicHealth

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