“Your donation to PRC will change lives. It changed mine.”

Calvin first learned about PRC during a chance meeting with PRC Employment Specialist Lauren Vega while volunteering at the Castro Country Club, a clean and sober gathering place for the LGBTQ recovery community. Lauren had been seeing clients there and suggested PRC’s LiftUp SF career pathway training program to Calvin. A big believer in things happening for a reason, Calvin decided to give it a shot. He’s so glad he did.

Calvin had previously worked in kitchens in the restaurant industry. He loves cooking and wanted to be his own boss. But a drug addiction interrupted that. Calvin had a whole year of sobriety but after COVID hit, he relapsed into alcohol. He needed a change so he got a sponsor and entered a 12-step program. That’s when he met Lauren.

With Lauren’s encouragement, Calvin enrolled in LiftUp SF. Part of our Workforce Development program, LiftUP SF was created specifically for people like Calvin with what we call “lived experience” – those with a real world understanding of mental health and substance use treatment settings – to train for jobs as peer health professionals in community and public health settings.

Over the course of the four-week, 64-hour program, Calvin learned a lot about the different behavior patterns of addicts. He saw these reflected in his own past and present behavior and, more importantly, learned how to interrupt these patterns. Calvin discovered a new outlook and a new outlet to express his own struggles. He learned how to put the person in need first, but also about self-care and setting boundaries.

Calvin learned how to communicate better, which was important because when he was using drugs, his people skills had deteriorated. He learned how to listen to the person, not just the problem, and how to talk to people without condescension, a big shift from when Calvin had previously done things out of spite or just to get a reaction. Calvin considers himself a compassionate person. However, “there were a lot of aha moments, when I saw that what I’d been doing wasn’t good.”

“It really changed my life. Having the opportunity to immerse myself in a different field of work and really understand how addicts work, it’s changed my sense of everything.” Calvin explains. Following the training, Calvin began working at PRC’s Hummingbird Place, a psychiatric respite program and navigation center where people in distress have an alternative to the emergency room for stabilization, linkage to social services, and referral to longer-term treatment and recovery.

“My income has increased. I have a job. I have a place where I pay rent. I am learning new things about myself by interacting with peers. I am confident in my work. The peer to peer training helped me to put myself out there. It brought me back to life. I can make change in other people’s lives at Hummingbird. One client said, ‘You are the nicest counselor I’ve ever met here at Hummingbird.’ This brought me fulfillment. I have an impact. With the help and guidance of PRC and LiftUp, it was possible for me to get a different outlook on life. There are people who have it worse than I do.”

“The job is helping me, in a sense, learn who Calvin really is, what my boundaries are, and what makes me happy. I can now analyze my feelings before I react and think about the consequences.” Calvin finds himself pinpointing in others behaviors that he had himself in the past, which allows him to reassess himself on a daily basis. Calvin shares that there are clients who need attention constantly, and his own experience allows him to be more compassionate toward them and toward himself. It’s allowed him to look back at trauma from his childhood in a new light and rediscover himself and live a more normal life.

Calvin shares that PRC impacted him because he had to do the hard work to discover why he feels a certain way. Every day is a learning opportunity. Previously he always said yes to avoid conflict, then felt anger, and then shut down. The job at Hummingbird has allowed him to embrace the emotions that his clients are deflecting. He’s learned to not take it personally. The job is helping him move on with his life. His clients are prime examples of where he doesn’t want to be again. They motivate his continued recovery. Calvin just celebrated two years sober, and he knows he’s looked up to by his peers who see a real change.

Right now, Calvin is just taking it one day at a time. He’s still madly in love with food, which he calls his therapy. “Food will always have a special place in my heart but mental health is also fulfilling. Mental health is important, especially in San Francisco, especially in the gay community. I see a lot of individuals who don’t know how to navigate their own feelings. Your support will help people like me help people like them, to know they’re thought of, that people do want to help them. Your donation to PRC will change lives. It changed mine.”

Your support of PRC’s programs like LiftUp SF is changing lives like Calvin’s, and training a new generation of community health workers to help others. Please consider making a donation at this time, which will be matched now through May 31 dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000 by a generous challenge match by our Board of Directors.

Learn more about how PRC is transforming lives for the better and building lasting change at give.prcsf.org/lasting-change.  

“PRC has been transformational for me.”

At her lowest point, Alana was experiencing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, and a lack of self-esteem. She was feeling suicidal and struggling with a drug addiction, a harmful relationship, and chronic homelessness, all further complicated by being a transgender woman.

Now, Alana is sober, has her depression and anxiety fully under control, and is even looking into going back to school.

What prompted this change? Participating in PRC’s wraparound service model that provides a pathway from crisis to stability.

Alana’s first contact with PRC was the 90-day treatment program at Jo Ruffin Place, a transitional residential treatment program focusing on co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Her experience there was nothing short of life-changing.

Alana went from having no structure while homeless to having daily structured groups within a safe and healthy atmosphere focused on her recovery. Alana had a counselor from the beginning to help her navigate. She was surrounded by others going through the same thing, people she developed a family bond with and continues to stay in touch with many months later.

The Jo Ruffin staff were incredibly supportive, non-judgmental, and encouraging, putting Alana on the right track to recovery and stability. Alana was able to stop using, see a therapist, connect with providers, go to recovery meetings, find medication that worked for her, and get her depression and anxiety under control.

Following her 90-day stay, Alana secured a spot in PRC’s Assisted Independent Living Program (AILP). Established to meet the need for clients desiring continued assistance, this sustained treatment through ongoing support is incredibly successful in preventing relapse. Clients who’ve formed friendships can live together while receiving case management services from PRC staff. Alana checks in with her case manager weekly, and has built healthy social relationships with her roommates. She is in much better health, including getting regular exercise and eating better.

Alana also enrolled in PRC’s new Lifting Up Peers for a Brighter Tomorrow program, or Lift UP SF for short. Part of our Workforce Development program, Lift UP SF was created specifically for people like Alana with what we call “lived experience” – those with a real world understanding of mental health and substance use treatment settings – to train for jobs as peer health professionals in community and public health settings. Over the course of the four-week, 64-hour program, Alana accessed individual coaching and peer group support and worked closely with mentors who have their own lived experience and serve as role models.

Alana also continues to participate in weekly PRC support groups and workshops. She registered for NextStep Computer Training, PRC’s four-week Microsoft Office intensive course. Alana has started volunteering regularly and shares, “It’s given me an opportunity to be productive. It feels good contributing rather than only taking.”

Alana is also looking into going back to school to finish her degree, something that didn’t feel realistic before but after PRC’s offerings, she’s feeling confident in her ability to continue learning, to go back to work, to expand her horizons, and to participate in life in San Francisco without the fear and instability she had before.

Throughout all the PRC programs she’s engaged in, Alana has felt stable, supported, and not judged regarding her recovery, even when she relapsed. As a transgender woman, she’s felt cared for, interacting with staff who value diversity and support the LGBT community.

When asked what she would say to a PRC potential supporter, Alana doesn’t mince words. “I would say that PRC really is life changing. PRC has been transformational for me. It’s taken me from a really hopeless place to become a healthy, stable individual with my mental health and substance use issues managed. I’m happy more than I’m not. PRC does a great job helping the most vulnerable people. I belong to that group. They helped me in a nonjudgmental, caring way. I never felt I had to be ashamed or embarrassed. I’ve always felt fully supported by PRC.”

Alana is a testament to how PRC’s varied services – our integrated service continuum of care – work together to help our most marginalized individuals out of crisis and transform them into happy, healthy, independent individuals.

Support individuals like Alana by considering a gift at this time. Your donation before May 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000 by a generous challenge match by our Board of Directors to make even more of an impact.

Learn more about how PRC is transforming lives for the better and building lasting change at give.prcsf.org/lasting-change.

“Everything I’m doing is allowing me to be healthier in the future.”

Tracy reached a low point last spring with regard to his mental and physical health. Battling depression, anxiety, substance use, and a misdiagnosis for cancer, Tracy felt empty and done. He was treated at the hospital and, after a short stay at another provider, found himself a coveted space at PRC’s Odyssey House.

In this beautiful Victorian home that can accommodate up to ten adults with 24-hour staffing, Tracy has thrived in an unusually short period of time. He arrived struggling with depression and anxiety along with substance use issues. He felt like he was in chaos. Six months into his stay, Tracy shares, “I’ve been able to find a new perspective on things I appreciate about myself. I now have a desire to like myself. I’m able to explore getting to where I want to be, as opposed to where others expect me to be, and how I should live my life. It’s been a great opportunity to rediscover myself.”

Odyssey residents set personal goals upon arrival. Tracy’s goals included developing and building healthy relationships. The social setting of the house provides lots of learning opportunities, including interacting with others you wouldn’t have otherwise and contributing in ways that work for both yourself and others. Residents engage in group sessions and take turns with household duties such as cooking meals. This has helped Tracy to be more conscientious with others and also to step outside his comfort zone.

Odyssey House was created 30 years ago as a truly unique permanent housing residential facility focusing on African-American adults who were formerly institutionalized for extensive periods of time, or who lived on the street for many years. Its goal is to assist clients in developing independent living skills. It is the only such program in the City of San Francisco.

The program’s supportive services are personalized to allow residents to take on more responsibility and make progress toward their goals as their condition improves. Tracy is getting better at managing his physical health concerns and other symptoms. This includes some very specific actions like obtaining glasses and some less so, like Tracy feeling more comfortable in his own skin, an accomplishment aided by being surrounded by faces that reflect his own.

Something we hear again and again from our residential program participants is that the programs give residents the room to explore next steps without the constant pressure of seeking a safe place to stay. Tracy has had the space to deal with past trauma and think about his future: housing, going back to work, and continuing to work on his mental and physical health. “It’s allowed me to be kind to my future self. Everything I’m doing is allowing me to be healthier in the future: emotionally, physically. I’d like to do art therapy. That’s my dream job.”

Tracy has been able to take up art making again after a six-year hiatus. His art studio consists of a small desk in the corner of the house’s common living room. He shows off some of his most recent creations, assemblages inspired by Odyssey’s modest garden.

Odyssey House managing director Lisa Gayles shares that Tracy has been a good influence on others in the house. “He’s been able to develop some really good relationships with his peers and bring them out of their shells. He’s always positive. The spirit he brings is awesome.” Taking stock of Tracy’s progress, Lisa shares, “He’s a stronger advocate for himself now. He’s better at setting boundaries with others.”

Odyssey House and PRC’s other social rehabilitation programs are about providing an opportunity for people who feel like everyone else has given up on them. And to discover how to live their best life.

If you would like to invest in programs that help individuals like Tracy to live their best life, please consider supporting PRC with a donation at this time. Your donation before May 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000 by a generous challenge match by our board of directors to make even more of an impact.

Learn more about how PRC is transforming lives for the better and building lasting change at https://give.prcsf.org/lasting-change.

“PRC helped me get my life back.”

That’s no understatement. Meet Jessie. Jessie first came to San Francisco for a vacation, fell in love, and never looked back. Then she found herself living in a tent, and subsequently in legal trouble that had her back and forth between homelessness and incarceration for 28 years.

When Jessie found herself back in San Francisco with no shoes, the clothes on her back, and a borrowed tent, she received a flyer from a social worker about PRC’s legal services. She was told the lawyers there might be able to help her with her legal troubles and accessing social security disability. That’s when she met Ron.

Ron Kurlaender, Jessie’s PRC lawyer and advocate, and his legal assistant at the time, Anna, welcomed Jessie with open arms. Over the course of three years and with infinite patience, they worked with Jessie to secure the necessary medical and other documents to appeal her very complicated case. And they won.

“If it weren’t for Ron and PRC, I don’t know where I’d be right now, and that’s the truth. I’d probably be back in jail or dead.” Jessie shared. “Ron single-handedly saved my life with PRC backing him. He worked so hard for me. He really did save my life. I will always remember Ron as family. He’s like the only family I have right now.”

Now Jessie is off the streets. She has a home. She has responsibilities. She pays her bills. She’s built up her credit, sharing that it was 3 when she first came to PRC but is now in the 800’s. She even recently got a dog, Ricky.

“They gave me a life, a life that I yearned for but couldn’t reach. I was used to being put down. It’s so hard on the streets. You can’t trust anyone. My depression got so bad I couldn’t leave my tent. Ron and Anna were the only people I wanted to talk to. Ron has patience I’ve never seen in anyone. He cares from his heart. I have a way of being alive now and that’s all because of Ron and PRC.”

Jessie is one of thousands of vulnerable adults who take advantage of PRC’s Legal Advocacy program to gain access to income and healthcare necessary for stable housing and improved health outcomes. This program was the forerunner for all other PRC services, formed in 1987 as AIDS Benefits Counselors in direct response to the AIDS epidemic to help those affected by HIV to navigate their way through a purposely cumbersome process to get the disability benefits they deserved. The program has grown tremendously over the years but maintains its commitment to providing legal services, using a harm reduction model, to the most vulnerable populations in the community, including homeless, non-English speaking, active drug-using, and other marginalized individuals.

Our team of attorneys and legal assistants don’t just provide legal consultation and representation. They’re often called upon to act as social workers and hunt down documents that are elusive to those in crisis and without a home. They’re caring when no one else is. And they fight. And win. In 2019/20, they secured 207 notices of award, resulting in more than $6 million in income for vulnerable San Francisco adults and their families.

You can be a hero like Ron is to Jessie. Please consider supporting PRC with a donation at this time. Your donation before May 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000 by a generous challenge match by our board of directors to make even more of an impact. Your generosity will go twice as far in helping PRC clients like Jessie to have a life again.

Learn more about how PRC is transforming lives for the better and building lasting change at https://give.prcsf.org/lasting-change.

Announcing our dollar-for-dollar match to support clients like Joseph, whose story will inspire you

We’re thrilled to announce our Spring Match Challenge Campaign, a dollar-for-dollar match up to $15,000 now through May 31 thanks to the generosity of our Board Directors. Campaigns like this and our wonderful supporters who participate in them make a huge difference in the lives of our clients who PRC works with every day. People like Joseph, pictured above, and captured in video below. In December 2017, Joseph came to Ferguson Place, our residential treatment program that was the first of its kind to work with individuals living with HIV/AIDS and co-occurring substance use and mental health issues.

Joseph was homeless, using drugs, and malnourished – alternating between shelters and other people’s homes. He was being treated at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Ward 86 when a social worker referred him to PRC.

Unsure whether to take a chance, Joseph spoke to Bridgette Washington, Ferguson’s Program Director, who sensed the urgency in Joseph’s voice and said, “Please come over.” They already had a bed ready for him. Joseph shared, “I laid down and cried, it felt so good to have my own bed.”

Over the 90-day program, Joseph learned things that you and I may take for granted, but helped him to get off drugs and create a life plan for himself. Individualized treatment planning and counseling, group sessions, and structure gave Joseph the tools he could take with him after his stay. The social rehabilitation approach helped Joseph to open up and trust people again and make friendships he maintains to this day.

Today Joseph works an incredibly rewarding job as a caretaker to the elderly and adults with developmental disabilities and will soon begin a vocational nursing program. He received help with his school application from PRC as well.

He shares, “I was inspired because I was taken care of. I saw that in all my counselors. I want to do that too. I don’t know how to repay them. This is how I can pay them back. Any help I can give, I’ll do it.”

We are inspired by each and every one of our clients who walks in our doors in need of help in some way, and walks out transformed. This is what PRC does.

When Joseph left Ferguson House, he wanted to do something to thank them. So he drew the house, found a wooden frame at a second hand store, and gave it to Bridgette. It still hangs in the house today. It’s a testament to the success that can come out of this challenging, complicated, and often thankless work.

Joseph shares, “PRC been a big help in turning my life around. Without PRC, I wouldn’t have a life.”

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more of our clients’ stories. We hope you find them as inspiring as we do. And we hope you’ll consider, if you are able, making a gift, which will be matched by our board challenge to make even more of an impact.

Between now and May 31, your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000. Your generosity will go twice as far in helping PRC clients like Joseph to turn their lives around.

Learn more about how PRC is transforming lives for the better and building lasting change at https://give.prcsf.org/lasting-change.