Accompanying The Queer*

by Laura Slattery, Executive Director, July 2013

In the most recent homeless count in San Francisco in January 2013, an additional question was asked for the first time of one thousand of those who are unhoused: what is your sexual orientation. The results showed that 29% of those living on the streets identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ).

Given the above statistic and Gubbio's mission of welcoming all our brothers and sisters who live on the streets, it is no surprise that The Gubbio Project, and hence St. Boniface Church from 6 am to 1 pm each weekday, is chock full of people who do not fit within the gender or sexual norms laid out by society, nor the Catholic Church, for that matter. It is a daily occurrence that we ask someone using the women's bathroom if they identify as a woman, and/or explain to questioning or upset guests that if people identify as female, regardless of their exterior trappings, we allow them to use the women's bathroom.

Daily, several couples of various gender combinations lay down next to each other in the back of church, often snuggling before they fall asleep. Each and every day, someone shares with us the pain of being rejected because of how they look or who they love (see article below), and often (though not often enough), they share the joy of finally feeling safe with someone, or getting put on a list for the surgery they need to make them look more like they feel.

To accompany the Gubbio guests, those who are struggling with addiction issues or mental health issues, or those 30% who identify as LGBTQ, we need to be able to cry with them and to rejoice with them. We cannot weep or celebrate with our brothers and sisters if we are thinking (or God forbid, saying) "God loves you, but you need to change." It is a most unhelpful message that people have been hearing their whole lives. A better second half of the sentence would be "and so do I."

It is no secret that LGBTQ folk do not often feel welcome in Church. I am glad to say that from 6 am to 1 pm every Monday through Friday, they are welcomed by this Project into this church with open arms.

*Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary. No offense is meant by this term that has been largely reappropriated by the GLBTQ community from its form as an anti-gay epitaph.

Reflection by a Staff Member

by Emma Fenton-Miller, May 2013

Over the long weekend I saw a news article about a homeless man who died on the sidewalk around noon on May 10th at the corner of Market and 3rd. The article made clear that while crowds passed by this man who obviously needed medical attention, no one stopped to help him or called 911. Instead, at least one person used their phone to take a video of him as he bled to death. Help was finally called, too late, by a sanitation worker whose job it was to keep that piece of sidewalk clean.

I think most who hear this story are disturbed by our collective "back-turning" on those living in extreme poverty. It probably stuck in the minds of a few, brought them down a little and reminded them that the world is kind of messed up, adding to their cynicism but perhaps not to our collective action.

My first reaction was to wonder if the man who died was someone I knew, since when I left work on Friday a friend told me of how he was very sick and had been vomiting blood, which brought the situation close to home. This is the case for many, such as those who have family members living on the street, those who work with or are friends with someone who is homeless. For many who know someone who is homeless the cardboard thin abstract that is "homeless person" no longer distances in the same sort of way.

Instead of a depressing parable of the disconnection in our society or just a sensationally sad story, it is actually what happened to a real person. While I think it is important and needed to keep looking at the big picture in such an instance, it occurred to me that I should first simply and deeply feel for this person because in a profound way that's what was lacking.