Gubbio Positioned to Start Second Site

by Laura Slattery, Executive Director, November 2015

For those of you who have been supporters of the Gubbio Project for the last several years, you know that a theme of ours during that time has been encouraging other places of worship to open their doors to those living on the streets the way that St. Boniface Catholic Church has done for the last 11 years. We have touted the benefits of opening one’s sanctuary to the homeless guests, the volunteers, and the parish. We have quoted Scripture and the pope; given rational, theological, and practical arguments about sacred space; preached in a number of churches; and talked on the phone with scores of religious leaders.

Well, it looks like the work, and the Spirit, have made it happen. Starting in December, gratefully before the worst of the El Nino effects begin, we hope to partner with St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in the Mission for 4 hours each weekday. It will be a pilot project for the next 7 months. We hope to provide the same essential services that we have been providing at St. Boniface – weekly breakfasts, massage, haircuts, HIV testing, and foot care – at this second location.

As we have done for the past 11 years, we will continue to provide “sacred sleep” to the hundred plus people who seek an oasis from the streets of the Tenderloin at St. Boniface. We will continue to provide a ministry of presence, essential items such as toiletries, socks, and blankets, access to bathrooms, and referrals to where guests can get much needed services. At the request of the parish, however, we will no longer provide the breakfasts, haircuts, and other services that we used to provide.

Thank you for all the support that you have given over the years as we continue to walk with, and be in community with, our brothers and sisters who live on the streets, worship in the pews, and live in the area.

Who's Going to Say They're Sorry

by Laura Slattery, Executive Director, October 2015

When we as a society finally understand that the people who have been living on the streets are our brothers and sisters; that they are vulnerable, treated inhumanely day and night, are ignored, and are criminalized unfairly ...

When we realize that they are worthy of more than mini-homes, overcrowded shelters, or no shelter at all; that they deserve more than our scorn, our impatience, our fear ....

When we see that those who struggle with mental illness or chemical dependency are parents, children, siblings; are afraid just like we are, have dreams just like we do, need love and care, and to be seen ....

When we get that race and gender are constructs and diversity is to be celebrated, enjoyed; that not everyone has the same experience in their body; that we as a society have criminalized and moralized people for who they are ....

When we finally wake up and invite people from the streets into houses ...

Who will apologize to them for the years of neglect and indifference? Who, on behalf of society, is going to say, "we're sorry for not recognizing your humanity and prioritizing you?"

Training in Awakening

by Laura Slattery, Executive Director, February 2015

I wanted to take a moment to respond to the incident that happened a couple of weeks ago when a cop was tasked with waking a homeless person up who was sleeping on a bus that had come to the end of its line near Ocean Beach.

The task of waking up homeless people is one that is not relished by the Gubbio Project staff and volunteers, but one in which we have become experts. We wake our unhoused neighbors up from the sidewalk in the morning at 5:45 am, from the front of the church when they fall asleep in those pews reserved for mass and prayer, from out in front of the church during the day, and finally from the pews at 2:45 pm when it is time for us to close. We must wake up 100 people a day that don't necessarily want to be awakened.

It is not an easy task, and probably our least favorite. It takes training, patience, compassion, more patience, time (that we sometimes don't have), and a bit of humor. And so it is with this expertise, and compassion for the 'awaking officer,' that I offer my insights on the incident.

In response to the characterizations from the Public Defender's Office that Police Officer Chu had "lost his temper" and that his actions were a "reckless and unnecessary escalation of force," Police Chief Suhr defended Officer Chu saying that he was acting as he was trained to do. While Suhr is probably speaking truth, it only makes the matter worse. It begs the question of anyone who has seen the video , And
what training is that?

A better response would have been for Chu to admit what the Public Defender's Office said was true - he did escalate the situation. It is understandable. Most people have had to put up with someone who was drunk. And it would be hard not to sympathize if Chu came out saying "I was impatient, and in my effort to accomplish my task - to get Mr. Warren off the bus - probably hurried him along too much. I got triggered when he insulted me, challenged me and offhandedly threatened me."

This self-knowledge and analysis is what I would expect of my staff if we had an incident here at Gubbio. Is it too much to ask this of those who are entrusted with the safety of the whole city?

Mr. Warren played his part in this incident. But he did not deserve to be beaten, pursued, and pepper sprayed, and then to spend two weeks in jail. He owes an apology to be sure for the way he acted, but he certainly deserves an apology as well.

Along with training in CPR/First Aid and working with folks who have mental health issues or suffer from addiction, I offer the staff training in knowing their triggers and in de-escalating situations. We use these skills every day. Wouldn't it be great if, after Chu's (suggested) acknowledgement of getting triggered, Police Chief Suhr could defend his apology saying "he was simply doing as he was trained."