San Francisco gave us a new challenge as far as hunger and homelessness. The organization we attempted to volunteer at fell through which left us with a last minute task of finding an in to explore the hunger and homelessness plaguing this city. Walking down the streets there is a definite street culture with many younger individuals hanging out in the streets, as well as older men sprinkled across the city. It has been called the city with the most visible homeless population. So where was the help?
There were several organizations that we looked into but many were either full or never responded to our calls or emails. Then by pure luck we had the opportunity to have dinner with an employee of Glide. Glide is best known nationally for its appearance in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness a tale of a man and child living homeless in the streets of San Francisco, trying to survive and eventually thrive. In several scenes of the movie the father and son would rush to wait in line at the Glide homeless shelter, many times having to sleep in the subway station or other places, because the shelter was full. Although aspects of this movie were fiction and altered for the movie, this was one of the authentic pieces. San Francisco has about 6,544 homeless individuals with 1,134 beds for single adults and 100 for families. Although there has been a reduction in overall homeless individuals in the past 3 years, the numbers for need versus availability are still unequal. The city is spending about $200 million every year addressing homeless, yet it still stands as one of the city’s largest issues. The focus on helping seems to draw homeless individuals to this safe haven from other cities. Glide is one of the largest organizations in SF with a mission to be “a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.”
The four pillars of Glide are wellness, growth, spirit, and leadership. By having one organization overlooking aspects of these components it creates a cohesive solution that only addresses immediate needs of food, health care, and shelter, but has future growth models past meeting immediate needs. Another large component is prevention through youth programs. After 50 years they have grown from feeding people from the basement of a church, to an extensive network of services to heal the city. Although this organization is affiliated with a church, the main mission is to help everyone possible, which means no one is sent away.
There are currently 87 social service programs that are run under Glide, including daily meals that amount to over 934,000 free meals a year, serving about 3,000 homeless individuals. They provided 100,000 of hours for child care and after school programs to over 325 clients. As far as homelessness they helped 5,707 individuals with shelter and helped 120 people find permanent housing. In addition, the church provides HIV testing, mental and primary health care, women’s programs, crisis intervention, literacy classes, computer and job training, drug and alcohol recovery, free legal services and much more.
Although we were unable to visit the sites of these services, we heard many stories from the representative on the truly impressive impact of Glide. Their tale of hunger and homelessness paints a picture of the need for an encompassing approach that addresses survival as well as thriving in life.