Glide Memorial Foundation
Hello, first blog about my internship. Glide memorial has been an absolutely amazing experience thus far. I am deeply indebted to the individuals that sponsored this program as I would not have considered working at a place like Glide if it were not for this internship program. Not only has Glide radically changed my perspective of how I view other people, it has also changed my perspective of how I view myself. I have learned a lot about what exactly happens in a non-profit business and how people go about getting projects done within a corporation.
Before you can understand my internship, you first must understand Glide. And to understand Glide, you must understand the area in which is works. The city of San Francisco is divided into districts such as Union Square, SOMA, the Mission, etc. There are a few poor areas in San Francisco, but none match up to the Tenderloin. It is adjacent to Union Square, one of the richest districts within San Francisco. In an effort to combat the poverty within San Francisco and help keep the city a safer and more comfortable place, the Tenderloin was made and became a “containment” zone for all the homeless, poor, clinically insane, drug dealers, drug users, prisoners and more. Long ago, city officials thought that the best way to combat this problem of growing poverty was to group all of them together into a small couple blocks. Although the Tenderloin is one of the smallest districts, it has more people per square inch than any of the other districts in San Francisco.
The tenderloin is full of people from all walks of life and all sorts of backgrounds. It is regarded as the Ellis Isle of San Francisco. This is because immigrant families that come to San Francisco cannot afford to live in other parts of the bay area and are confined to the “cheap” area of San Francisco, the tenderloin. I use cheap very cautiously because it is still San Francisco. For a small “studio room” in San Francisco, one can expect to pay between 600-1000 dollars a month. Studio room doesn’t even do this justice. These places are called Single Resident Occupancies (SRO’s), they are literally big enough to fit a bed and closet. Some of them have sinks, but not all. And they are packed together like dormitories; members of the hall all share the same bathroom. These SRO’s are known to be dirty and can have things such as dirty needles in the sink, and grime everywhere. SRO’s are also a common place for drug deals and for recruiting people to become drug dealers. Dealers will knock on your door and offer you crack, sometimes even threaten you to buy their crack. What is worse is that although SRO’s seem inexpensive to us, people on assisted living cannot afford to live in these places for an entire month as their check generally only is between 600-1000. Thus, when one factors in the food and other necessities that every person needs to survive, there simply isn’t enough funding to house them for a month. In light of this, many people sleep in SRO’s for half of the month, and on the street for the other half of the month. In addition to all of the side effects that living on the street can have to the mind, this also poses serious health risks for the homeless. They are taken to hospitals and cannot pay their bills. The government actually ends up losing MORE money in this process. However, I’ll get into more detail on that when we get into Glides services.
All of this takes place in the Tenderloin with our without Glides help. This is an unfortunate consequence of the containment zone that is known as the Tenderloin. However, there is silver lining to the clouds. Since people from all walks of life are literally thrown into the district (and I do mean thrown, people being released for the nearby penitentiary are dropped off at an undisclosed location within the Tenderloin) there is a sense of the “melting pot” that America is often referred to as in regards to culture diversity. Glides values reflect that through its idea of Unconditional acceptance and inclusion. Glide was founded to help out the people in this district. That meant everybody, not just one group of impoverished or under-represented individuals.
Glide provides a variety of services for the community such as food, shelter, counseling, and more. Glide has over 80 different programs all geared towards helping out the community of San Francisco. As an intern here, I have come to known a few of these programs.
One of the biggest is our meals program, which is run by Bruce McKinney. The program serves 3 meals a day 364 days a year. Many other service providers only provide one meal per day, or sometimes only even a few per week. Glide served over 800,000 meals last year, a number which grew 17% from the previous year. The growing need in the Tenderloin is large. In a study from a January to April in 2008 compared to the same study from January to April of 2009, Glide served 60,000 more meals in the 2009 period than in the 2008 period. This equaled an extra 120,000 dollars that needed to be diverted to the meals program to keep it serving the needy. While interviewing Bruce, he told me that the meals program is about giving people a chance to get a hold of their life. In an economic time where people aren’t left with many choices, we try and help them on the simpler things so that they can have that money to make a difference in their life.
Another important program is the Health Services program. This is a nurse-practitioner run office on the top floor at Glide that offers health services to the clients. This is a wide variety of things such as general care, HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling, etc. Health Services accommodates a wide number of people every year, totaling around 1000 visits every month. They care of the patients in the Tenderloin and are even apart of a pilot program that is offering a form of universal health care in San Francisco. Yes, that’s right, San Francisco is ahead of the game in terms of the Health Care that Obama has been preaching since the beginning of his campaign, and Glide is on the front lines with San Francisco, testing out the program and offering it to the community here at Glide.
I’ll only talk about one more program, however it should be mentioned that there are so many more programs and I’d encourage you to talk to me personally or check out their website. They also have a facebook page. Another program is the CW House. It is Glide’s subsidized housing for the chronically homeless and families. The CW House was built 10 years ago. Cecil Williams, a Glide founder, wanted the place to look beautiful for the residents (I’ll try and get some photos for you guys). After it was complete, the mayor of Las Vegas at the time came to look at the CW House because he was thinking of doing something similar in Las Vegas. After touring the place he said it looked beautiful, but it was a shame that in a few months the residents that lived there would trash it. Cecil Williams looked at him and said that just because people are homeless, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the respect that anybody else would. 10 years later now, and the place looks the same as it did when it was first built. It just goes to show that if you show people respect; they will show you respect, other people respect, and, most importantly, themselves respect.
Now that you have an understanding of Glide (unless you just got bored and skipped past all of that), what am I doing there? And what have I gained from? I work with two people. The first is the IT director. With him, I have been doing a lot of IT work, focused on cleaning up their directories. The issue we’ve had in IT is that there has been no real filing of where computers are, who is hooked up to the network, and what computers work. I have been going through tracking down which computers are still active and finding out which computers were active 5 years ago but are no longer even at Glide. This process has been long but it is something that needs to get done. I think I’m starting to realize that technology might not be the field for me. I’m not entirely sure yet. I have always loved technology, but not in the way that an IT person goes about getting things done. I have learned a lot of new things since working in this IT department and it is very different from the IT work I do at USF. My work at USF is more hands on, whereas the work I do here is program based. Both ideas I like, but it has been difficult learning the programs in such a short period of time. Ultimately I’m gaining a sense of “is this what I want to do for a living?” It’s something I’m not sure about yet, and I’ll have to think about more.
The other person I work with is in charge of the Interns. I began a 2 week orientation program with him where we went to many of the different programs at Glide and learned about them, not from an outsider’s point of view but from a place where you feel the struggles that you see and have going on around you. This experience was crucial to the transformation process that all interns go through. I really got a chance to connect with the other interns and we’ve grown progressively closer as our work here has continued. We spend the entire 2 weeks together, working in the different programs offered at Glide and seeing first hand what is needed to be done for the community. Coming from a sheltered community where homelessness and poverty weren’t real issues, this came as a real shock to me. I saw things and experienced problems that I had never before had to experience. It is thought-provoking in many different ways. I began noticing changes in myself; changes in the way I act, and the way I face problems.
I have a tendency to complain about things. Originally, I felt that a complaint of how things were, left a desire to go about fixing it, and eventually a solution to the problem. However, after seeing the things that people deal with on an everyday basis in the Tenderloin, I felt as if I had lost my right to complain about menial things such as a parking ticket. I have found myself on several occasions looking at a situation where something has gone wrong, and simply remembering the things I had heard while in a recovery circle of drug addicts or in an interview with a women who had been beaten. After remembering the struggles that these women have gone through, I feel less concerned with the everyday drama that I experience and release that feeling of frustration towards it, because I know that there are bigger problems out there.
In addition to this overwhelming sense of calmness, I have also practiced the ideal of unconditional acceptance. The idea of unconditional acceptance is an idea that Glide holds dearly. Glide allows people from any background to come and obtain services. I feel like this is something that is easy to say, but very difficult to practice. For example, Glide was one of the first churches to allow a small Gay community to use their church as a place to hold mass. This was during a time where homophobia was a large epidemic. In addition, Glide has held national hooker conventions, crack conventions, and many other controversial conventions that some people would never consider. Glide prides itself on allowing anybody to not only walk in and get services, but be heard and have a right to stand up for him/herself.
One of my projects here at Glide has been to create a video tour. I had the idea to do this project one day when I was sitting with the other interns during our orientation period and chatting. I ran it by my boss James, and he said it was a great idea. Currently, Glide will give tours to people that come to visit and people that are considering making donations, however there is no way for people to get this tour without coming to San Francisco. I wanted to go about changing that. So I went on several tours myself, and even gave a tour to familiarize myself with the process, and then we began planning for the video tour which will eventually be posted onto the Glide website. The idea underwent many changes during its initial stages of development. It transformed from a single documentary, to several short clips about each different program which will be spliced together to create a whole video. During this project I’ve learned many things about how a business operates. I’ve learned how important it is to move up the correct chains of command without skipping people or leaving people out because I had done that a few times and gotten negative comments/e-mails from those people.
In addition, I’ve dealt with the frustration of people not responding to frequent attempts at contacting them. Some people saw my e-mail but didn’t respond, and others never saw it. I resorted to seeing most of the people in person to confirm dates and times to interview them for the video tour as I lost my faith in the other forms in communication.
Another great thing I learned is that how quickly something can go from a small idea said almost as a joke, to a full scale production in a matter of weeks. It was great to work on this and many people commented on how quickly I had moved from one stage to the next of the project. However, the most important thing I learned while working on this project was time management. I am only a part time intern at Glide, whereas many of the other interns are full-time. Additionally, I have the shortest time here because I will be leaving early to begin training back at USF to become an RA. Combine this tight schedule with the fact that I was doing such a big project and you have a recipe for disaster. Every week was different. Week 1 was research, week 2 was tours/scheduling/script writing/planning, week 3 was confirmation of the schedules, week 4 was videoing, and week 5 was editing. AND, I still had my duties at an IT intern. Although I worked tirelessly and often ended up doing work from home at night or during days off, there simply wasn’t enough time to do the entire project. So the project had to be stopped a little early so I could prepare it for the next batch of interns to finish. It would be “passing of the baton” type of project.
Currently, with only a few days left in my internship, I’m struggling to get all the clips together and ready for the new interns. It may not end up being as clean of a baton pass as you would see in the Olympics as the clips aren’t transferring very easily from tape to computer. This is all part of the struggle and I’m now utilizing my IT co-workers to help out with the transferring of work for my video-project. So hopefully it works out.