Client Spotlight: In His Own Words

Dave Charbonneau sat down in June to talk about his experiences with addiction and PRC.

You narrow yourself into a corner when you use for a long time.

I was emaciated, missing teeth, homeless, jobless, unemployable, and contracted HIV. When you’re in that place, it’s hard to see any possibility. What’s on the other side? SO MUCH – that’s my message.

After twenty years of trying to get sober, my primary addiction was to meth, I finally did it at 42. Now I’m 50 and so grateful for my life. I’m a licensed electrical contractor with my own apartment, a couple of vehicles, and a community I love! I’ve got so much.

It wasn’t easy to get here. I went through Joe Healy Detox at least three  times, sent over by UCSF’s Ward 86 to get help. I went through Ferguson House a few times, and Acceptance Place more than once. The attitude was “Come on in, Dave. Let’s try this again.” There was no shaming about having a difficult time “getting it.”

“Come on in, Dave. Let’s try this again.”

Addiction is not pretty. It’s hard. I would be in a good place, feeling fine walking down the street, and it was like being struck by lightning: “go get high.” I would wake up a day or several days later and go – what just happened to me?

When I finally surrendered to recognizing my addiction, PRC helped me create structure, care for myself, and reach for help when I need it. When I think about learning how to “go grocery shopping” at Acceptance Place, it’s amazing how instructive it was for my life. Now I call it “Dinner Party Preparedness,” but it’s the simple skills that help you consider yourself in context and able to cope: think about what you need, how much, how to make it last, and what’s your budget.

Acceptance Place

Now when lightning strikes, I reach for my support system. The passage of time makes it easier. I’m stronger on my own, but I wouldn’t be here without PRC. Initially you have to be surrounded. I called it Team Dave – a therapist, a psychiatrist, a lawyer, a sponsor. I was surrounded by a team of advocates and professionals.


Bold Steps for Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment Access

PRC is proud and grateful for the series of bills that Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed into law that will tremendously help our clients, partners, and agencies serve the most critical needs of those suffering with behavioral health challenges.  These measures represent bold steps in the right direction that will make it easier for people to access life-changing treatments for mental health and substance use disorders.

During these exceptional and challenging times, we are proud of our state leaders, particularly Representative Chiu, Senator Weiner, and Governor Newsom for supporting these bold and courageous reforms.  We stand with you and our partners across the state in ensuring the best possible access to care for ALL!


Reinvesting in Black Communities

Seeded by a generous grant from Gilead Sciences, the Black/African American Leadership Council (BAALC) launched in August 2019 to sharpen focus on addressing disparities impacting the African-American community in San Francisco. PRC expected a year-long quiet phase for the collective of 47 (and counting) cross-sector African American leaders before publicizing the BAALC. However, urgency surrounding both the pandemic and Black Lives Matter propelled BAALC into early public action. 

In addition to working closely with city officials, community residents, and community-based organizations on developing long-term policy recommendations to redress systemic racism across its five focus areas—Criminal Justice, Culture & Community, Education, Health, and Wealth/Home Ownership/Housing—the BAALC has been actively involved in current events. In May, the BAALC advocated with Mayor Breed and partnered with District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton to secure free COVID-19 testing in San Francisco’s Black communities. In June, based on the latest research on reducing negative youth interactions with police, we advocated with Mayor Breed to direct at least 50% of all police budget cuts to fund improved early education and Black youth development outcomes. Most recently, on the steering committee of an emerging coalition of residents and leaders from across the city now known as MegaBlackSF, PRC helped develop a policy agenda for police reform – specific ideas on how to reallocate funds away from police and into various Black community supports – that culminated in a published letter to Mayor Breed

Our clients represent communities that have long faced cyclical poverty and structural inequity. We keenly recognize that social and behavioral health services, while essential, can only go so far. To move our clients forward, PRC is duty-bound to join forces with those who seek to fix our broken systems that sustain poverty, racism, and inequality.

We look forward to sharing more as the Black/African American Leadership Council pushes on and keeping you informed. 

LGBTQ Rights – Recognized & Protected!

This is progress. Speaking truth! And making our voices heard.

PRC reminds our community of its commitment to justice in all its forms, as we celebrate the rights of LGBTQ workers that are now protected from employment discrimination in America.   

This week’s Supreme Court ruling has offered a glimmer of hope for our institutions, as we stand with our LGBTQ workers, leaders, clients, and the broader LGBT community.  It took countless allies and decades of advocacy around the nation to achieve the right for equality and human rights in the workplace, and we have now finally achieved the ability to break the chains of second class citizenship in our workforce.    

At a time in our democracy that grapples with how it treats Black Lives and the most vulnerable in Americawe are able to celebrate newly won protections for LGBTQ workers that have been treated without dignity for far too long.  We owe the past victims of insidious discrimination a debt of gratitude for speaking their truth, and making their voices heard.  This is progress, and PRC will continue to march toward further progress with all who join the fight for human dignity in America. 

Also read: PRC’s Stance on Justice, Black Lives Matter

Brett Andrews on the Fight for Racial Justice, San Francisco Business Times

As I write this, our nation is socially rudderless – devoid of leadership to address the latest display of police brutality and endemic racism in America.

The intensity of the current social unrest should not come as a surprise to anyone following current events in recent years. In our lifetime, we’ve witnessed similar instances of George Floyd’s death, often at the hand of those sworn to protect us. If we are willing to reach further back, we’ll find this abhorrent behavior exhibited in our society for centuries. As the Covid-19 pandemic began earlier this year, being a Black/African American in America went from consistently complicated to deadly.

PRC CEO Brett Andrews’ Viewpoint, as published in the San Francisco Business Times June 11, 2020.


A question for every American to consider is this: Did those in power today truly believe that a society which continues to be governed by a wealthy white aristocracy would remain in power in perpetuity, with no resistance from the oppressed? In other words, what led us to believe that black and brown people would be OK with a constant slate of abuse, brutality and discrimination until the end of time? Unfortunately, the result of this man-made social construct of racism has withstood the test of time. The reason? Fear.

Fear is the primary fuel that ignites, energizes and animates those who wax nostalgic on a past that disempowered people of color in this country. The energy needed to dismantle racism must be commensurate to the energy it took to create it. I do not condone looting and destructive rioting. However, we must recognize that the civil unrest — which should be viewed as separate from peaceful American protests — may be the countervailing force needed to grab the attention of those who have perpetuated structural, economic and state-sanctioned racism since America was established. It’s hard to comprehend the amount of sustained efforts and resources that were laser-focused on segregating schools, housing, restaurants, nightclubs, stores, water fountains, hotels and the like.

In addressing the varying misperceptions of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, it’s equally as complicated to consider how we ascribe to subdivisions within the human race that require victims and allies. While oppressed people in our society (black, brown, LGBTQ and others) appreciate the concept of having allies, we should reserve it for the inanimate tasks of supporting policies, positions and rights — not for identifying as fellow sentient human beings. The concept of being allies or in solidarity with others who are different from “us” has led to a less-than-helpful concept of “othering” — a well-meaning but unintentionally negative modality that creates an “us vs. them” reality for many. Instead, we must embrace a deeper, more fundamental human notion of “oneness.”

Hence, if you see a child being mistreated by an adult, you wouldn’t need to ascribe to being an “ally” to all children in order to intervene. You simply intervene because you, too, are human.

I Iong for a future when simply being human can be enough for us to see ourselves in — and support — our fellow humans’ needs, suffering and oppression. This call to action is exactly what defines our mission at PRC. We operate under the belief that an individual is not a victim, but that their need is a symptom of our collective ecosystem that must be modified.

If we change our ecosystem by improving our systems of care — health, education, housing, justice, etc. — we increase the opportunity for success. The challenge, however, is that America has created an oppressive ecosystem largely based on race and class — leaving 100 million Americans (nearly 1 in 3) living in or near poverty.

As a 55-year-old African American man, I’m saddened to be forced to live with the stark reality of surviving, and eerily sitting on the shoulders of my younger brothers and sisters — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and many others — who impermissibly sacrificed their lives by merely being black. While there is no salve to heal these wounds, there is an opportunity for us to recognize the importance of human rights for all.

It’s hard. It’s complicated. Yet, I cannot apologize for the “dis-ease” one may feel. This moment demands all of us to be uncomfortable. Centuries later, U.S. citizens must come to grips with America’s original sins of slavery and genocide and acknowledge the scars of our past. Those scars must still heal. I hope neither you nor I are ever in George Floyd’s situation. In the discomfort of writing or reading this, remember, we both have options to step away — options not afforded George Floyd.

Black Lives Matter

In response to the tragic events of the past week, we want to restate our key organizational value of Justice in all its forms. Our clients represent communities that have long faced cyclical poverty and structural inequity. At a time when their suffering is already compounded by COVID-19’s devastating impact on their health, community and opportunity, the latest reminders of a century’s-long legacy of brutality against African Americans is sending so many more of those we serve into a cycle of unprecedented despair, pain and disorder.

While we are hopeful that the police officers who caused George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis are brought to justice, PRC is examining ways to focus on the systemic issues that can prevent future suffering. As a service provider that helps more than 5,700 San Franciscans overcome legal, health, and poverty related barriers every year, PRC is here to help bring about change on a broader and higher level. We are duty-bound to join forces with those who seek to fix our broken systems that allow inequality and brutality to continue.

BLACK lives matter. Our clients’ lives matter. Through our efforts to form the African American Leadership Council combined with our membership in several other coalitions, we will drive change that impacts and improves both the communities we represent and the lives we’re here to protect. Please join our e-community to learn more and become involved. Together, we can truly change our world.

And All That Pride…

Some things don’t have to change. We are who we are. Thank god.

While this pandemic will prevent us from marching down Market Street in colorful mass to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Pride parades held in San Francisco and New York City, it does not prevent us from coming together to celebrate ourselves, our hard-fought achievements, our rampant creativity, and our strength in community.

(As published in  the San Francisco Bay Times, May 21, 2020)

On the contrary, it should inspire us to do so regardless – safely, of course, with smart adherence to in-person social distancing guidelines, and plenty of aplomb.

I have long admired my good friends Donna Sachet and Gary Virginia—the most dynamic of duos—giving, doing, organizing, giving, convening, inspiring, doing, (did I mention giving?), entertaining, celebrating, and bringing it over and over again in big and small ways to meet community needs. So, I am not surprised that they will outdo themselves again this year.  

Their legendary Pride Brunch—the event of the seasonwill go on, June 27th, and everyone is invited!  

Donna and Gary's Brunch ChallengeFrom the comfort of your living room, kitchen, or dining room, Gary and Donna will bring you the Grand Marshals of the Pride Parade at high-noon on Saturday June 27th, honor the rich history of LGBTQ culture and liberation, and celebrate 50 years of San Francisco Pride with a saucy kitchen battle. The two will share their favorite brunch recipes and you will be the judge yourself, crowning the winner “Pride Brunch Queen.” 

We can sit back and relax with hosted cocktails and a delicious brunch delivered right to our respective doors. Or you can dance, parade, and sing along to live entertainment, live auctions, and special surprises in the privacy of your own home. This longstanding PRC fundraiser honors individuals and organizations fighting for LGBTQ equality, while raising critical dollars for PRC’s lifesaving services like legal advocacy, emergency financial assistance, residential treatment, and employment services. 

Celebrating 50 years of San Francisco community Pride, parading, and action, it is hard to believe how far the LGBTQ movement has come since the Stonewall riots eruptedawakening a new generation of legal and social advocacy. In retrospect, this turning point brings new lessons today amid this evolving era of worldwide COVID-19 public health emergency. We are all connected, and we are stronger when we stand together. 

As public consciousness is rising about that interconnectedness and our Country’s glaring health, income and access inequities, I am proud of San Francisco, our LGBT and allied communities. We’re on the frontlines, showing up for the most vulnerable again and again. And while there is still plenty of work to doI look forward to celebrating the contributions and opportunities brought by this year’s Grand Marshals—The LGBT Asylum Project, Founder of the Spahr Center Rev. Dr. Jane Spahr, and Executive Director of the LGBT Historical Society Terry Beswick—at this year’s virtual Pride Brunch.  

PRC, Pride Brunch’s beneficiary, has long fought for the most disenfranchised and health-challenged in our community on the frontlines of HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ advocacy for access to basic and critical resources. Today, these efforts are even more important as the impact of longstanding fissures in health status and experiences by race, geography, income, and identity are laid bare by the novel coronavirus. PRC is providing emergency funds for rent, medication, and connectivity; legal advocacy to preserve healthcare and subsistence income through job loss and upheaval; and emotional support and employment services to keep people moving forward; while also sheltering nearly 300 adults in place through a substance use and mental health treatment continuum prioritizing health, safety, and wellness.  

As a 55-year old African American gay man, I am both deeply familiar with the disconnection between legal equality and lived equality and deeply indebted to the collective advocacy of so many courageous individuals who were willing to hold the line, never back down, and stand in harm’s way. So, let’s come together on June 27th and celebrate what’s good and great about San Francisco Pride.

Inspired again by Gary and Donna, I think the dire issues of the day will continue to galvanize us – a  Inspired again by Gary and Donna, I think the dire issues of the day will continue to galvanize us – a strongereven more compassionate community. I choose joy, love, honesty, empathy, compassion and service along with a hint of leather, lipstick, and humor. So, let’s brunch 

How could we not celebrate Pride’s 50th anniversary. I’m already planning my outfit. Don’t miss the Battle of the Queens, Gary Virginia and Donna Sachet’s legendary Pride Bruch, streaming live at 12pm on June 27th. Tickets are on sale, so get yours today, and prepare to give big. See you there. 

Emergency Response to COVID Must Include Behavioral Health

What happens when Californians living with mental illness and substance use disorders (SUDs) are unable to receive the care they need? Historically, many end up in jails and Emergency Departments or living on the street. Before COVID-19, this was an inadequate solution, one that community safety net providers worked hard to remedy. Now, the need for mental health and SUD services takes on new urgency. Our Emergency Departments are stretched to the limit. Behavioral healthcare providers statewide are doing everything we can to serve people with urgent mental health and SUD needs in community settings, and out of hospitals. But, just when our communities need us most, we may be at risk of collapse.

Behavioral health organizations are facing a true perfect storm. We continue to provide essential services, including in-person contact with clients in crisis. According to a survey conducted by the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA), 89 percent of member agencies lack the necessary personal protective equipment, including masks, hand sanitizer and gloves. Meanwhile, our agencies are hemorrhaging financially. Many organizations are serving fewer clients, even with telehealth options, as people are isolated and afraid to reach out for help. Several organizations have been forced to furlough and cut staff, and the crisis promises to continue to negatively impact our agencies and our clients.

Nevertheless, our professionals continue to work despite fear and uncertainties. Outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness continues. Transporting people into shelters continues. Residential mental health and SUD treatment facilities and halfway houses continue to operate. Suicide prevention hotlines continue to operate as the number of urgent calls steadily increases.

Make no mistake – the need for mental health and SUD services has not declined. On the contrary, symptoms of anxiety, depression and isolation are sweeping the nation. And, very soon, frontline healthcare workers will begin presenting signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A second wave of this crisis is taking shape, a mental health crisis that will begin to peak just as new infection numbers start to decline. As the leaders of three of California’s largest behavioral healthcare providers serving some of our state’s most vulnerable individuals, we are worried that we may not be able to help when our state needs us most.

Our organizations continue to reverse overdoses that would otherwise likely have been fatal. We have kept people out of overtaxed Emergency Departments and jails. We have kept people from dying. But, we cannot survive like this. We need help and we need it right away.

That is why we have joined with the National Council for Behavioral Health to advocate for a $38.5 billion infusion of federal emergency funds for behavioral health organizations to avert a large-scale public health calamity. As part of the next stimulus bill, this funding would immediately stabilize the system and ensure that providers like us can provide services to the hundreds of thousands of individuals in California that depend on us.

The value of such an investment goes far beyond the immediate need. Just as frontline healthcare workers have been there when our communities needed the most, we want to be sure behavioral healthcare professionals are able to help. This will not be possible without immediate, emergency funding.

We are grateful to Speaker Pelosi for her work to get bipartisan agreement for the previous stimulus package, and hope that she will be able to secure similar support for behavioral health providers in the next package.

All too often, people living with mental illness and SUDs are forgotten, overlooked or cast out of sight. Now more than ever, we must care for them. Only then can we ensure the health and well-being of all Californians.

Brett Andrews is CEO of PRC, Vitka Eisen is President and CEO of HealthRIGHT 360 and Al Gilbert is President and CEO of Felton Institute

Learn more about the National Council for Behavioral Health.

A new job and new hope: Henry’s Resilience

A sense of momentum was hard to hold onto with the COVID-19 pandemic unfurling around him. Not only did Henry lose his income as a driver for Lyft, but his sense of well-being and a promising future—like all of us struggling to stay positive and focused during the changed circumstances of this public health emergency—disappeared.

I am grateful for PRC—all the help, the patience, and the communication. Now, I look forward to tomorrow.

Troy Boyd and Joe Ramirez-Forcier of PRC’s Workforce Development program describe Henry as a “eager and willing to do whatever he needed to improve his life.” Facing many challenges growing up gay in Colombia, unsupported by family, and forced into life on the streets, Henry sought a better life in a place he could bring forward his whole self. He’d recently been granted asylum, and PRC helped him enroll in English as a Second Language classes at City College San Francisco to boost capacity and confidence. With his Employment Specialist, Henry put together a strong resume and gathered references while he volunteered part-time at PRC and began driving part-time for Lyft.

Henry felt things were really beginning to look up.

As his confidence grew, he wanted to put the degree he earned in psychology from his home country to work, and he joined the second cohort of PRC’s new Lift Up Peer to Peer Program, an occupational Skills Training course in peer-to-peer professions and social service settings. For Henry, the program was a “wonderful refresher” and “critical opportunity to build and practice workplace vocabulary.”

Graduating in March 2020, Henry was certified as a Peer to Peer Specialist just as the Shelter In Place Order brought many aspects of regular life to a halt in San Francisco. Henry was deflated, but his PRC team rallied together, encouraging him to apply for an open position as a Residential Relief Counselor with Baker Places. His preparation netted a virtual interview, and with his wrap around PRC support system, Henry got the job!


We are very proud of him for sticking to it and believing in himself during the difficulties presented COVID-19. Completing pre-employment training this week, Henry begins his assignments as a Relief Counselor soon.

“My life is normal, I think,” Henry said this week. “I don’t always feel proud of my history, but I’m like everybody, and I am grateful for PRC—all the help, the patience, and the communication. Now, I look forward to tomorrow.”

Explore PRC’s Workforce Development program.

Return to Spring 2020 Frontline e-News.

Accessing Services During COVID-19 Shelter-In-Place

Your health and safety are our top priority at PRC. During this COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) public health emergency, we remain steadfast in our mission to stabilize and champion the most vulnerable among us and to support adults of all ages who are affected by addiction, HIV/AIDS, mental health challenges, under or unemployment, and homelessness. 

We are here for you now, providing services to meet changing needs and circumstances every day.

We plan to begin re-opening the Integrated Service Center in January 2021Given that the majority of our clients are medically fragile and 17 percent are over age 60, we are working diligently to design alternative and safe methods for service access and ensure the health and safety of our clients and all vulnerable San Franciscans impacted by behavioral health disorders, HIV/AIDS, poverty and homelessness.  PRC’s Executive Team is currently drafting policies and procedures to safely ramp up in-person support services, in compliance with the most up-to-date California and San Francisco Department of Public Health guidelines, and reignite the full complement of PRC’s resources, accessibility, and heart for staff, volunteers and clients alike.      

Please do all you can to adhere to the City/State’s public health order to wear masks, social distance, and stay home as much as possible except for essential needs. Find details and read the public health order here. These are critical interventions to protect each other and reduce harm from the spread of the coronavirus in our community. Most of our clients, and many of our staff, are considered “vulnerable” during this public health emergency – making your adherence even more essential. 

We will continue to keep this page updated with any changes to our protocols or service accessibility. Last revision 8/4/2020. 

The following are considered essential services by the San Francisco Department of Public Health: 


All residential programs are providing essential services to clients every day, 24 hours a day and operating under heightened COVID-19 safety protocols. Inside substance use and mental health residential treatment homes, supportive housing, and Hummingbird behavioral health and homeless navigation programs clients are Sheltering In Place and being educated on universal precautions. In accordance with the COVID-19 emergency order, residents will be not be discharged without a verified housing plan.

For information regarding intakes and eligibility, contact Emily Suma, Director of Intake at or 415-864-1515.


Emergency financial assistance is operating on a limited basis. Direct referrals and inquiries to or 415-972-0857 or or 415-972-0858. Response will occur within 48 hours, during regular business hours. 

Limited client drop in hours for assessment or paperwork completion is taking place three times weekly, from 1:00pm to 3:00pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 170 9th Street in San Francisco. Protocols are in place to maintain proper social distancing of six feet between persons while waiting and during service exchanges. Clients, staff, and volunteers are required to adhere to social distancing practices and additional measures instituted to protect the health and safety of vulnerable individuals. 

Checks for previously approved emergency fund grants will be available for pick up on Thursdays between 1:00pm and 3:00pm, as previously arranged. 

The Mayor’s Office has issued policies about not evicting tenants or cutting off key utilities due to non-payment during this time, but steps may need to be taken by residents and tenants to secure these protections.  


Residents of Supportive Housing have REMOTE access to case managers during normal business hours and regularly scheduled support sessions to sustain treatment progress and stability, with increased, in-person and immediate services available as needed. The emergency on-call phone continues to offer support outside normal business hours. Clients are Sheltering In Place, being educated on universal precautions, and screenings for exposure are conducted during every client interaction, whether remote or in person, such that each client is being screened at least once per week. Residents will only be discharged if alternative permanent housing or higher levels of care have been secured.  

For information regarding intakes and eligibility, contact Jessica Winterrowd, Project Director at or 415-777-0333 x260.

The following non-essential services, as defined by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, are operating in limited capacities during the COVID-19 Shelter-In-Place Order and remotely, as possible: 


Services are operating REMOTELY, and we are in close contact with SSA field and hearing offices, keeping abreast of changes that may affect our clients.

Current clients: If you have a question about the status of your case, please reach out directly to your PRC Advocate by phone or email. We are doing our best to stay in contact with our clients, but please be patient if your representative does not respond immediately.  If you do no know who your advocate is, please call PRC’s front desk at 415-777-0333, leave your call back number, and allow extra time for a call back.

Referrals and Intakes: For new client inquiries, please reach out to Alisa Jackson, Supervising Legal Assistant at 415-972-0815.


Employment Services are operating REMOTELY. 

Current clients: For individualized counseling and support services, please reach out directly to your PRC Specialist by phone or email for assistance with employment related questions, support, and assistance.

Referrals and Intakes: New client inquiries and referrals are welcome. Contact Dennis Reilly at 415-972-0819 or

Training Services are providing teleservices to existing clients and developing remote learning strategies. 

  • LIFT UP SF Training groups are occurring weekly via remote teleconferencing; and we’re accepting applications for the next cohort, beginning soon. 
  • Next Step and First Step computer-based group training courses are on hold. Waitlists are being formed. We are accepting inquiries, applications, and referrals at this time for all group computer classes.
  • Remote digital literacy education and support is available on request on an individual basis. 
  • Please contact Brian Whitford for all Training inquiries at 415-972-0805 or 


Current clients: For individualized counseling and support services, please reach out directly to your Housing Planning Program Contact or Michael Scarce at 415-972-0873 or

From day one of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) response, PRC has been working hand in hand with local, state, and federal public health leaders to develop and support response protocols. PRC also is a key partner in the City’s activation of resources to prevent and contain community transmissions, and we are staying abreast of the CDC and San Francisco Department of Public Heath’s contact guidelines. 

Together, we will do what it takes to strengthen our safety net and continue moving lives forward in the days, weeks, and decades to come.