Gary Virginia and Donna Sachet’s Pride Brunch is back, in person, at the Westin St. Francis Hotel!
Love is in the air, and Gary Virginia and Donna Sachet’s Pride Brunch is back, in person for 2022! Marking its 24th year, this momentous celebration of all things Pride returns to the beautiful Westin St. Francis Hotel on Saturday, June 25, 2022, for a romping good time! Join us for a joyous commemoration of the Pride Parade’s Grand Marshals during our City’s Pride Weekend.
Mark the date on your calendar (or secure your ticket early) and get ready to show your pride with your friends by your side! All proceeds support PRC’s integrated legal, social, and behavioral health services for those affected by HIV/AIDS, mental health issues, and substance use.
Stay tuned for tickets and more information
COVID-19 Protocols and Guidelines
Based on San Francisco City Guidelines, guests may be required to show proof of vaccination in the form of a CDC card or a picture of your CDC card, you may also be required to wear a mask indoors unless eating or drinking.
“I get to see clients grow, access benefits, find housing, and become stable. It’s been really gratifying to work for PRC this long.”
For many of PRC’s clients, Alisa Jackson is the first person they interact with on their quest for support. Having advocated for herself and countless others for nearly two decades, she’s appropriately earned the nickname Queen Bee of the legal team. She’s the go-to person when anyone has a question, and she does it all with compassion and a warm welcoming smile.
A true San Francisco native, Alisa was raised in the Bayview and later in Pacifica, the result of her grandparents moving her family to the Bay Area from North Carolina in the 1960s. Following her roots, Alisa studied at the University of North Carolina but returned to San Francisco to pursue an additional degree in Paralegal Studies. Today Alisa lives in Oakland with her nine-year-old son, who shares her passion for philanthropy and social justice. Prior to the pandemic, Alisa and her “little buddy”, as she calls her son, were highly active in community service, delivering fresh produce from a friend’s co-op to the homeless encampments in East Oakland. When the world transitioned to working from home, her son got to witness Alisa working with clients firsthand. Since then, he has become an advocate in his own right in being respectful of people’s correct pronouns and does not hesitate to speak up and protect his friends. To Alisa and her son, no one is a stranger, and everyone is a friend.
What brought you to PRC?
“While I was in college, I noticed that there weren’t many services in North Carolina, and I wanted to get involved. The variety of services in San Francisco was another aspect that stood out to me. I decided that if there’s a way for me to be involved in the services that are helping my community, then I can also share this knowledge with friends and family members outside of San Francisco. With this information at my disposal, I can say: these are the resources that are out there. You may not have them in your state but in San Francisco, we have everything, so let me help you to navigate and find those resources in your community.
“Initially, my plan was to go to law school. I volunteered at the Eviction Defense Collaborative and thought, before I go to law school, I should find a job in the field and make sure this is what I want to do. I completed my paralegal certificate at City College and began looking for work at a nonprofit. PRC’s mission really spoke to me. I liked the idea of helping people who are HIV positive or living with mental health struggles. At that time, people with HIV weren’t living as long. The mission is close to my heart because I have family members who have passed away from HIV. When I saw the posting for PRC, I thought, that sounds like something I can do. I decided to pursue more of a legal assistant role and try to earn some money before acquiring law school debt. I’ve done really well utilizing the skills I earned with my paralegal certificate, but law school is still on the table in the near future.”
Can you describe your role as the Supervising Legal Assistant?
“Essentially I’m the go-to resource for all the different departments. I supervise a total of five legal assistants, and I work closely with the supervising attorneys and the managing legal director. I’m the gatekeeper because I navigate the calls that come in. Whether clients need help with social security, health care, or other legal needs, those calls come to me. I have a plethora of knowledge regarding PRC and the community members that we work with. My function is to support the attorneys in their role with helping people get their claims approved.“
How long have you been the Supervising Legal Assistant?
“It’s been a solid six years now as the Supervising Legal Assistant. I advocated for a Senior Legal Assistant title by writing a letter explaining why I deserved the promotion after the first six years with PRC. Prior to that, the Senior title didn’t exist. I love my job and I enjoy helping others. I like to think that I help advocate for both staff and clients as well. I advocate for a lot of things. But I don’t try to force my way. I choose my battles. If I feel like something is wrong, I’m going to speak up about it.”
What aspects of your job do you find rewarding?
“Clients who accessed services way back when our offices were located on Market Street are frequently surprised that I’m still here after so many years, and they are always so happy to see me. When I greet our African American clients, I get to see the pride and joy in their faces knowing that someone that looks like them will be representing them. I’m in a position of power and also a position of help. Representation is incredibly important. These types of connections are really special to me.”
There tend to be a lot of stigmas surrounding homelessness and mental health issues. For anyone who holds these feelings, what would you tell them to help change their perspective?
“I was raised to respect all people, no matter what. There’s a lot of stigma or bias for people of color, African American women, the LGBT communities, or simply being part of certain groups. I say be respectful of all people, no matter what, because at the end of the day, when it comes to being homeless, especially in San Francisco, it can happen to anyone. One day you may lose your job. And you’ll be in the same position. My main objective is to put things in perspective. You never really know what a person has gone through, so be mindful of that.”
For somebody who wants to help out, what’s the best way for them to get involved?
“Find an organization whose mission is dear to your heart and volunteer. There are so many organizations and many of them were created during COVID as people either lost their job or saw that there was a need and wanted to help. Do an online search. Look on Instagram. Find a local organization and volunteer once a week or month. Then spread the word and tell your community: hey, I’m helping such and such organization with a, b, and c, and try to bring friends. Start somewhere close to where you live. That way you’ll be making a direct impact on your local community. And if you have the means, please donate.”
What do you do to combat compassion fatigue?
“I remind myself frequently that it could be me in the client’s shoes. There have been so many times where I’ve had a rough day, then I go to talk to a client, and they tell me that I just made their day. I gave them information that they didn’t know. Then I feel a lot better, and that puts me back on track. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, and then the phone will ring, and I think, should I take it? Then someone will tell me that they’re so thankful and grateful that I took the time to talk to them, and that always reminds me of why I’m here, and it makes it all rewarding.”
You’ve seen PRC grow for nearly 17 years. Do you see a difference in how clients feel coming into our new office building compared to how they felt when they accessed services at the Market Street location?
“Due to COVID, we’re no longer in the office five days a week like we were, but we strive to help as many people as possible. We try our best, and I feel that for the most part, we succeed. For clients who received services at the old building, when they come into our new office and I see the expression on their face, they love it. I hope they see the new building as our commitment to them and providing a comfortable home-like atmosphere where they feel appreciated and valued.”
Is there anything that you feel that our readers should know about the work being done here by you and your colleagues?
“Keep believing in PRC because we’re here for the long run. I know a lot of nonprofits don’t survive, but we’re still here. And there are still a lot of great people coming in and out. We serve San Francisco’s most vulnerable population, and they need your help too. Be kind, give smiles instead of judgment, and do the right thing, even if it’s the harder option. If you can, give back when you are able.”
If you enjoyed getting to know Alisa and the impactful work she does for PRC’s clients, please consider making a donation to support our mission. If you would like to learn more about Legal Advocacy, PRC’s programs, or the wonderful staff at PRC, you can read more stories on our blog or visit our website.
BLC Members Left to Right Top Row | Kelly Dearman, Chris Brown, Micah Thomas, Ernest Hopkins, Dr. Diane Johnson Middle Row | Charles Chip McNeal, Nicole Lindler, Brett Andrews, Tomiquia Moss, Al Gilbert Felton Bottom Row | James Loyce, Toni Newman, Sarah Tiffany-Richardson, Tasha Henneman, Dr. MaryAnn Jones
What was PRC CEO Brett Andrews to do when he read one heartbreaking statistic after another placing Black San Franciscans dead last after every other group in the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s 2018 Black/African-American Health Report? Throw his hands up in despair? Not likely.
Instead, Brett thought long and hard about what PRC – with its long history of helping San Francisco’s most overlooked, marginalized populations –could do with its resources and influence. So, he convened all the San Francisco Black leaders he could find across public, civic, and private sectors to discuss what they could do. The Black Leadership Council, or the BLC for short, was born.
At first, the group served as a safe space for Black/African American leaders to discuss challenges and best practices within the workplace. Those first few months in 2019, BLC members shared stories, work challenges, and successes, and in doing so, felt relief to find a space to process things together. But following the traumatizing murder of George Floyd, amid Black Lives Matter protests and a national awakening to the long plight of Black Americans, there was a shift. The BLC felt they needed to do more.
They also realized they had unknowingly formed a coalition of direct service providers that could improve conditions not only for San Francisco’s but for all of California’s Black residents through policy work. The BLC decided to focus on advocating for change in four main pillars – housing, health, wealth, and education – and crystallized its goals into a single, comprehensive plan: the California Black Prosperity Agenda.
This collection of policy recommendations aims at achieving system reforms needed to dismantle entrenched racism in California. Through collaboration with the state’s elected officials, over the past year, the BLC has been supporting legislation included in the Black Prosperity Agenda that could unlock the full potential of Black and low-income communities of color. The BLC is starting to see those tireless advocacy efforts pay off.
“As direct service providers, we have to find a way to build a system of prevention and support so that African-Americans are not disproportionately represented when it comes to accessing social services. It is my passion and priority to find a way of stabilizing individuals so that they never have to fall into a level of disenfranchisement, marginalization, and disrepair. If often feels that all we are ever doing is building a system to take care of disadvantaged Black and Brown People, but we need to shift to build a system that allows them to engage in the fullness and franchise of the US, equal to everyone else and the general population.”
– Brett Andrews, CEO, PRC
Last year, the BLC advocated for legislation and funding measures for the elimination of the debt that hinders financial security for the 11 million Californians living in or near poverty, including the elimination of court-inflicted debt, which was part of the state’s historic Build Back Boldly budget. The BLC also supported legislation for expanding broadband infrastructure, requiring implicit bias training for nurses, improving health outcomes for infants, and authorizing the removal of discriminatory and unlawful housing covenants. BLC leaders also provided legislative recommendations for education bills that increase access to technology, incentivize more diversity in the teacher workforce, and expand trauma-informed practices with families.
“The Black Leadership Council (BLC) represents an important and timely response to the injustices of our time. This dynamic group coalesces the knowledge, passion, and expertise from a variety of Black professionals in the Bay Area in service of manifesting the Black Prosperity people deserve. I am passionate about the mission, and I am also grateful for a community space that supports Blackness. BLC puts forth an unapologetically Black narrative about the power of possibility within the Black community.”
– Chip McNeal, Director of Diversity, Equity and Community, San Francisco Opera
Additionally, the BLC established an essential partnership with the Reparations Task Force, which is studying and developing reparation proposals for African Americans in California. The BLC has taken part in numerous Task Force hearings since the initiative’s founding.
“The BLC is a coalition of leaders who prioritize and fight for the prosperity of black people across our state. We came together with a clear mission but we’ve grown into a family bonded by our experiences. We have created a space where black people can have a voice, change our trajectories, impact our community, and take back our power.”
– Nicole Lindler, Senior Advisor for Intergovernmental Relations, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations
“It has been exhilarating to dive into the work of the BLC. It isn’t easy, but by coming together as a coalition, and uplifting the voices and needs of the Black community, we hope to impact systemic change at scale and create a degree of sustainability that differs from what can be achieved through direct service alone. As Angela Blackwell coined in the term, the ‘curb- cut-effect,’ when we invest and solve problems for those who are most disproportionately impacted, everyone in society benefits.”
-Tasha Henneman, Chief of Public Policy and Government Affairs, PRC
While 2021 was an impactful year for the BLC, members are fully aware of the long journey ahead, and the need to double down. In 2022, thanks to a grant from Metta Fund, the BLC is convening capacity building trainings for member organizations, on topics including improving agency outcomes through analytics, telling compelling stories to elected officials, having courageous conversations about race, and understanding and managing the generational divide within the organization and those served. The BLC will also continue to offer expert testimony at the Reparations Task Force and other relevant legislative hearings, to advocate on behalf of the Black Prosperity Agenda with California lawmakers.
The BLC partners with other local efforts such as Mega Black SF, SFBLOC, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Human Services Agency, the City’s Office of Health Equity, and the City’s Human Rights Commission’s Dream Keeper Initiative, all of which are working on innovative approaches to achieve racial, health, and social justice and equity for Black San Franciscans.
“We are prioritizing Black prosperity in the state in a way that acknowledges the contributions of Black folks, historically. Every marginalized community has challenges they’re overcoming, but here’s something unique about the Black experience that needs to be acknowledged — the disproportionality of impacts for Black folks in every category you can think of. Leaders coming together with that focus is foundational to being a more equitable state.”
– Tomiquia Moss, Founder & CEO, All Home
It will be another busy year for the BLC, and the organization is always interested in networking and fostering coalition building. If you’re interested in learning more about BLC’s membership, reach out to the BLC’s Director, Tasha Henneman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With more voices working together in unison, the march toward prosperity is closer than ever.
“I love serving in the BLC with other brilliant African-American leaders pushing equity in our community.”
– Toni Newman, Interim President and CEO for the Black AIDS Institute
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BLC BY THE NUMBERS
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Ask Me (PRC) Anything
PRC’s Chief of Policy and Government Affairs and Director of the Black Leadership Council, Tasha Henneman, addresses the burning questions of what is policy anyway, and why does PRC engage in it?
Well, what is public policy anyway?
Public policy can be defined as guidelines, rules, or laws that govern the work we do. Policy is designed by governmental entities at the local, state and federal levels to create solutions for a range of social challenges experienced by society. Policy has different dimensions, which includes roles for all of us to bring it to life.
Why is PRC expanding into policy work?
By expanding into policy work, PRC is able to better support the individuals we serve. We do this by building relationships with our elected officials (those who create the laws) to inform them of the impact of their policy decisions on their constituents and our community. We also do this by building coalitions with partner organizations.
PRC provides direct services to those affected by policies (ourselves included), so we are able to raise combined concerns and experiences, thus giving voice to people who are typically not seated at the table to influence change. Although in most cases, policies are designed to help people, often there are unintended consequences, which can have negative impacts on people and organizations. This is why it’s crucial that PRC and the BLC are involved in policy work and advocate for ourselves and others.
How does policy work translate into solutions?
Impacting policy change has its own set of challenges. It takes time, coalition building, thoughtful intention, and research. Policy work translates into solutions because it offers a chance to create more equitable opportunities and outcomes for the intended group one is advocating for. When lived experiences and innovative solutions are taken into consideration as policies are being formulated, people’s lives can be changed in a meaningful way. One must consider what part of a problem needs reform and whether current laws are discriminatory and need changing, or if creating new laws to improve conditions is the better method.
At the end of the day, if we create a law but do not empower the public servants who are responsible for carrying it out with the resources or training needed for implementation, then the policy strategy is unfinished. It’s a process that must make its way through the beginning (creation and research) to the end (implementation and evaluation).
It’s not every day that one of PRC’s former clients comes out the other end to join the staff. But that’s just what Jasmine Conley did when she recently accepted a role within Workforce Development’s newly launched Black Trans Initiative. This two-year project funded by the City’s Dream Keeper Initiative reallocates resources toward technical assistance for Black transgender people.
This is a population Jasmine is especially familiar with. “I always wanted to work with transgender women. I didn’t always identify as trans myself but that changed. I took this position because I want to help transgender women help themselves and identify what they want to do.”
Jasmine didn’t always know what she wanted to do. When she took her first PRC computer class, Jasmine found herself coming out of surgery and about to lose her housing. Her PRC instructor helped her secure a space at PRC’s co-opt supportive housing. Following the completion of her course, Jasmine felt confident enough to enroll at City College. It was overwhelming as a person with a background of trauma but Jasmine persevered, earning a community health workers certificate and a 4.0 grade average, while also working at student services as an advocate for trans students drawing attention to challenges they face.
Looking to do more, Jasmine considered training as a social worker when the opportunity at PRC arose. The idea of building a new program from the ground up is scary but exciting. The Lift Up SF peer-to-peer training Jasmine took helped immensely. “The things I learned earlier from a book went right out the window when the client was sitting across from me and all that trauma came back. I had to put my feelings on the backburner but I know now this is for me. It’s not easy but it made me love it even more. I know that I belong in this position. I want to be the best I can be because I’m representing PRC, which helped me be the best I could be.”
“I want to help anyone who wants help bettering their lives like I got help at PRC. If not for PRC, my life would have a different story. I can’t believe I’m working here now. Those who helped me four years ago are now my co-workers. I went through the entire program and here is the outcome. I have the best job and I think this is just the beginning.”
To say that we’re fortunate to have Joe Ramirez-Forcier managing PRC’s Workforce Development Program would be a massive understatement. His compassion and work ethic goes above and beyond as he navigates the complex situations many of our clients face, and he does this with an incredibly welcoming smile and a calming demeanor. We sat down with him recently to get to know more about him and the work he does at PRC, and we’re certain you’ll admire him as much as we do.
A true San Francisco native, Joe lived through the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and experienced firsthand the decimation it caused to his hometown, his friends, and his community. He watched as those around him became fewer and fewer, instilling in him the value of life and a duty to live his to the fullest. Not one to sit back and watch, he’s been volunteering ever since, working with people in end-of-life care and helping medical professionals to find critical resourcesfor supportive services. Today he continues serving his community by way of helping PRC’s clients navigate a path to a more promising future.
How did you find yourself at PRC?
“It was unplanned. I was working in tech, and about 20 years ago I had an epiphany and decided to work in the nonprofit sector. Eventually, I mapped my skills and began helping people with HIV, mental health, and substance use both in treatment and in residential settings, and now I work in workforce development.”
You’re coming up on your 16-year work anniversary with PRC. How does it feel to know that you’ve been assisting clients for that long?
“I’m all about the now. It’s my role and it doesn’t matter what I did yesterday. There’s always someone in front of us today who needs our support. I really believe in steward leadership: that it’s my role to serve. Whether it’s with a client or with my staff, I think, ‘how are you?’ and ‘how can I support you today?’ You really only have today and the folks in front of you. I think staying present and oriented toward others is very important in this work.”
How has PRC changed in the past 16 years?
“We continue to expand and define our roles and our capacities in community work. When I started, we had three public funding contracts supporting our services. Now we have 16 government contracts and grants. All of this shows that we are committed to providing a variety of services for people who really need them. This is why I come into work every day. I know we have something to offer that really does benefit people.”
How have things changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
“We’re in people services so when you put Zoom in the middle, we’re not engineered as humans to connect through a flat-screen. Communication by its nature is rounded by body posturing and closeness, the three-dimensional aspect of a person right in front of you. Especially for clients experiencing the intersection of homelessness, substance use, HIV, and mental health, the power of being together in person is so strong. Zoom is a poor substitute to his, yet currently an essential substitute, and it has changed the way we communicate immensely. Things don’t move as quickly. People don’t mentally process as quickly. And that means we need to do things differently. We’ve had to re-engineer how we deliver our program multiple times since the beginning of the pandemic. But we’ve been able to serve the same number of clients, which I’m really proud of.
“In the first year of the pandemic, we were able to get digital devices to clients so they could continue our computer training and peer-to-peer classes. It was clear that our clients didn’t have computers or Wi-Fi, which is necessary to access our services. While distributing computers, if our students didn’t have a mask, we’d give them a couple because they were really hard to get at the time. That above and beyond service lifted our hearts during a really challenging time. After all, we were all coping with the pandemic together at the same time.”
For someone who’s unfamiliar, could you explain what workforce development is?
“We work with a population that has gone through life experiences like becoming ill with HIV, dealing with substance use, and handling with severe mental health struggles. And similar to rehabilitation for a broken limb, a traumatic event, or a setback, it takes an extended period of time to regain one’s health. That’s the essence of vocational rehabilitation and the process that takes place in workforce development. We get a chance to have a really meaningful conversation about their abilities, strengths, hopes, and dreams, in order to build up hope they see their value and self-worth. Helping someone with their resume is one of our strongest counseling tools to convey how valuable someone is as a person. When you think of all the stigma where society or their family hasn’t valued them, it’s a chance to change that narrative. Then we embark on training to build confidence, skills, comprehension, and knowledge. Clients can then decide if and when they’re ready to try out a volunteer or internship role based on how it aligns with their abilities, their goals, and their income needs. This allows them to make really informed choices.”
Can you tell us more about how Workforce Development has evolved?
“We’ve added so many new computer training classes: supplementing Microsoft Office with administrative skills training and the Lift UP SF program, our peer-to-peer training for jobs in community health settings. With our new funding from the City’s Dream Keeper initiative dedicated to services for the Black Trans community, we’ve enhanced our trainings with Black/African American competency based on culture, health, community voices. At the end of the day, we are a post-secondary education facility, and for our computer training classes, we are a recognized training provider by EDD CA as California’s Eligible Training Provider. We look ahead to where there are job opportunities and develop certificate programs based on the labor market. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to focus on our mission, scope, and strategies to get our clients to where they need to be in the future and how we can enhance what we’re doing today.”
For those who aren’t able to attend the courses on a regular frequency or cadence, how are you able to help them get through the programs?
“There have been a lot of stressors in the past year, and we’ve really challenged our training department to say we can’t let these people fail. We’ve contacted folks who weren’t able to complete our coursework to extend a distance learning option and get them back in classes. For people who are working, we’re piloting an extended learning platform. That should help students have a chance to matriculate and also let them know that lifelong learning can be viewed differently, and they can succeed. For some, this will be their first success.”
Many of your staff have a similar “lived experience” and personal history as your clients. How has this affected Workforce Development?
“A shared ‘lived experience,’ or personal knowledge of the world gained through direct, first-hand experience, has certainly helped. In fact, it can be essential in finding success within our local communities. Whether it’s treatment, health care, or something else, this shared experience helps articulate the support we can offer. When we reveal parts of our past or say yeah, ‘I’ve been through that too,’ this makes a big difference. There’s a therapeutic effect of saying: ‘you’re not alone,’ ‘you’re not the only one who’s gone through this,’ ‘it does get better, so don’t give up.’ Having someone believe in us is so important. Many of the people we see don’t have anyone else in their lives. Sometimes we’re the only ones cheering them on. This can be one of the most important roles we play in someone’s life.”
For clients who have gone through the programs and graduated, what kind of follow-up services do they have access to?
“They can see us whenever they choose to. Once a client gets a job, housing, or health care, if they want to pause and take a break, we give them that space, and the door is always wide open. For our clients with HIV, they’ll need lifelong services, which can include retirement planning, relocating to a senior living facility, or selecting a new doctor in a new city if they relocate. There aren’t a lot of places clients can go for HIV and workforce development, much less substance use and mental health, that are accessible whenever they need it. Fortunately, we have funding to support folks along that continuum to make sure they have the support whenever and however they need.”
What other new challenges or problems have you faced?
“We’ve generally helped a certain cohort of people over the years but the population has aged and the demographics have changed. In our latest outreach, we’ve begun to dive deeper into the African American community, particularly to Black Trans Women. There’s a great need and an awareness to adapt our programs to support them and help them to be successful.
“For others who have been institutionalized for a long time, we ask: what does independent living and learning look like? Social skills and independent living skills take on greater meaning. We have had to rethink and adapt to these populations that are so worthy and so needing of our services. It’s important for us to continue to research and make sure we’re really helping them, that we understand the services that exist in the community to support them, and that we offer them the same opportunities that everyone else has.
“A lot of justice-involved people are so vulnerable and have stories of being victims of human trafficking at a very young age, which creates a lot of trauma. The work they were forced into against their will, sometimes by their own family members, puts them at risk of being institutionalized. Their stories are unfathomable. These are very bright individuals who are so deserving of getting the richness of our services. We’re partnering with the TGI Justice Project, which is there to meet these individuals when they are released from incarceration and there’s no one else there to support them. We’ve been collaborating with them to ensure these new clients gain access to our on-site
It sounds like you’ve become quite adept at personalizing your services to a wide range of clients’ needs.
“It’s really adapting to what’s happening on the ground, understanding how systems fail folks, and making sure we don’t recreate that cycle of failure.”
How flexible are your 16 contracts and grants in supporting all these different programs to serve clients in their current circumstances?
“The contracts and grants allow us to make the right decisions we need to in a process called localizing. We analyze what’s happening to the people who need our services. The key is adapting these services so people can access them. The City loves to learn about our techniques, creativity, and innovation in identifying different ways we can deliver essential services so our clients can flourish economically. The end goal is that they get the benefit of our services.”
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
“In 2021 there was a City-wide workforce program assessment for serving individuals experiencing homelessness. I think it’s important to know that PRC was invited to the table. I was able to provide input and help design a system where we don’t simply look at housing as the only solution for homeless folks, as they may not get housing for many years. There is a multitude of essential services that should be triaged for homeless individuals, including referrals to health care and services related to recovery, employment, and legal assistance. The final result of this project was the documentation of best practices for connecting people experiencing homelessness to workforce and employment services across the City.
“At any given time, we have clients living at shelters who are enrolled in our programs, and we want to make sure that they’re invited to and welcome at our services. There are multiple pathways to stabilization in the City of San Francisco. I was overjoyed that this became a standard of care and a guiding principle. I hope it will inform people in the future of a better system when assessing those experiencing homelessness for support services.”
How do you feel that San Francisco is performing in assisting these people in general?
“If it was easy to do, someone would have mastered it. There’s no silver bullet. It requires a fully integrated, engaged system of care with sufficient support. There’s data out there to demonstrate that historically we haven’t had enough funding for social services, much less the housing to stabilize individuals. In America’s largest cities, we have a Herculean task, but it’s a task worth doing.”
In observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, PRC encourages everyone to find ways to serve their community; even during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are creative ways to impact the community positively.
10 Ways to Serve the Community
Take care of yourself and others: Practice patience, kindness, and mindfulness. Encourage others to do the same!
Stay informed and calm: Only share information from credible sources like the local SF Dept. Public Health, state department of health or the CDC. Remember, when you stay calm, others will follow.
Protect yourself and others: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, the most important way to serve the community is to help stop the spread of COVID -19: following mask mandates, adhering to travel restrictions, and maintaining social distancing.
Donate blood: Blood levels are at dire low levels, the need for blood donations is high. Donation centers have safe, healthy ways for you to donate. How to make an appointment in SF
Become a pen pal: Make an intentional effort to reach out to communicate with family, friends, those you have not talked to in a while to stay connected. It could be as simple as sending a positive affirmation note or postcard. Everyone enjoys receiving actual positive mail. (Organizations such as Home Instead, Project PenPal, Village Concepts, and many more have programs to match you with someone.)
Support local businesses: When possible, purchase gift cards to local shops businesses, and uplift those trying to keep afloat.
Organize a warm clothing drive: Local gently used clothing or household goods to local organizations with a mission to provide needed items to those in need and career opportunities to those moving forward: St. Anthony’s, Community Thrift, Salvation Army, or Goodwill.
Volunteer at a local Food Bank or Dining Hall: Volunteer to help at the local food bank or dining halls that serve the unhoused in San Francisco (i.e., GLIDE, St. Anthony’s, or SF-Marin Food Bankand other organizations serving those in need.)
Donate: Non-profit community organizations need monetary gifts to make possible the essential work they do in our community. At PRC, we assist our community’s most vulnerable individuals through emergency financial assistance, residential behavioral health treatment, legal advocacy for access to necessary income and healthcare benefits, workforce development, social services, counseling, and supportive housing to effectively lift people up out of poverty, addiction, illness, and homelessness and offer them hope and a path to new opportunities. Consider supporting PRC in this important work.
Need some more inspiration? Check out these video references of Dr. King’s speeches:
David can personally attest to what an impact PRC has on the lives of those who really need the help.
“I will never forget how PRC helped me during some of my darkest days. They supported me, and it fundamentally changed my life for the better. How, you may ask?
It was January 2000. I was reclaiming my health after nearly succumbing to AIDS. I was beginning to believe I had a future but I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Since I had gone on disability six years earlier in 1994, the world had changed dramatically.
I had been getting help from several local organizations with food, rent, and emotional support. But now I needed help planning the next chapter of my life. Sharing my fear with a friend, he told me about Positive Resource Center, the forerunner to PRC. I had my doubts but I made an appointment anyway.
I still recall that first visit. I walked through the door overwhelmed with fear about what my future might look like: the path I was embarking on, if my body could take it, if I would lose my disability income. I worried about my stamina and my ability to get hired with grey hair and a gap of six years in my work history. I’m sure you can relate that I was also simply embarrassed asking for help.
All those fears were immediately allayed. I was warmly welcomed, and within short-order, I was confident and hopeful for a brighter future. I knew I had a partner and an advocate to support me through my journey.
PRC was a one-stop-shop for services and guidance. Beyond all the emotional support, they provided me with counseling and assessments to determine my goals and priorities, and we discussed what types of work and companies aligned with these. They helped me update my job skills and plan for schooling. Then it was interview training, interview clothes, resume writing, and even help with making business contacts.
It was not easy. During my six years on disability, my engagement with the world had gotten small and my activities limited. The energy needed to develop a path forward was challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally. Though I retained my Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare, I lost my long-term care income and needed to seek out additional roommates and financial assistance to get by.
Fear and doubt consumed me but I kept on. I had to. I was afraid I would otherwise become homeless. PRC was committed in their support, and so I worked to keep fear at bay, to focus on the path forward, and to believe in myself. I expanded my technical and language skills. I adjusted my diet and sleep habits. I reestablished past work connections. It was a 24/7 focus, and PRC was there though it all, cheering me on and providing additional resources as I needed them.
During the winter holidays of 2001, with the confidence gained over 20 months, I put fear and frustration aside. I put on my new suit and shoes. I donned a homemade sandwich board with my resume blown-up and a ‘Got-Job?’ talk bubble cut-out attached. I put resumes in green envelopes affixed with candy canes and went downtown to hand them out and wish those passing by a Happy Holidays. I was taking a break from the fear and anxiety. I was not going to let fear rule my life.
Though I didn’t get any job offers that day, I did receive a lot of compliments on my attitude. I felt proud of myself for getting out there. In the end, it was not my skills alone that landed me my re-entry job. It was the sandwich board story and my attitude, as well as skills old and new and connections made through PRC. Finally, in September 2002, I was offered a contract job, the next step in my journey toward work force re-entry and my goal of a full-time position with benefits.
The first six months of adjusting to a Monday to Friday workweek, the commute, and interactions with so many people outside my small bubble were overwhelming. I did everything I could to manage my physical and mental exhaustion while working hard to be a valued contributor. Every week it got a little more manageable. And with my doctor monitoring my health, I was succeeding at re-entry into the work force!
In the beginning, I was terrified of the expectations and felt handicapped by the gap in my knowledge, social skills, and work skills. Imagine going from grade school to graduate school. That’s what it felt like. But I was not alone. I had my support network, my doctor, my friends, and the staff at PRC checking in to see how I was doing. I worked hard to make up those six years. I listened, learned, and grew in so many ways.
In July 2003, ten months after starting my contract gig, still networking and still focused on my goal, I was hired as a full-time employee with benefits by a company that aligned with my personal values and supported my goals. I have been there ever since.
Eighteen years later, with my health stable and retirement just three years away, I continue to feel so incredibly fortunate. I survived and thrived. These experiences changed me, I believe for the better. I enjoy the work I do. I no longer struggle financially.
I have PRC to thank for this, and all of PRC’s supporters for making this work possible with their support.
I feel grateful that I’m at a point in my life where I can return the support I received by donating annually to PRC. I’ve also included PRC in my legacy plans. In these ways, I can give back to those who have given me so much, while playing it forward to help others like me.
I will always remember PRC for partnering with me on my journey to return to work, supporting me in getting to where I am today, and helped me forge a future bright with possibilities. I am thankful and feel it as my duty to live my life fully, for myself and as a tribute to those I have lost who did not have the opportunity to do so. Thank you.”
Join us for a magical, merry, and mirthful evening (with just a shake of sass) celebrating the holiday season of giving starting at 7:00 pm PST, on Tuesday, December 14th, and again starting at 7:00 pm PST, on Wednesday, December 15th, in-person at Feinstein’s at the Nikko.
Now in its 29th year, “Songs of the Season” – a benefit supporting PRC, returns with star-studded talent, curated and hosted by Billboard Recording Artist Brian Kent.
This amazing cabaret show promises an incredible night of performances from a variety of locally and internationally recognized entertainers; all determined to make sure you feel the joy and excitement that comes to define the holidays! As always, prepare to smile, laugh, applaud, and even shed a nostalgic tear or two.
We look forward to celebrating this holiday season with you!
Performances by: Brian Kent, Billboard Recording Artist Donna Sachet, First Lady of the Castro Breanna Sinclaire, Charles Jones, Dan O’Leary, Effie Passero Frenchie Davis, Kenny Nelson, Leanne Borghesi, Roberta Drake, Russell Deason, Sister Roma PURCHASE TICKETS
Are you interested in becoming a sponsor? Contact Seth Abrahamson, Director of Events, at email@example.com or 415-972-0853 for more information.
Per San Francisco city guidelines, PRC will require all guests to show proof of vaccination upon entry of Feinstein’s at the Nikko, along with photo ID. Proof of vaccination can be provided in the form of CDC card or picture of your CDC card.
Per San Francisco city guidelines, guests will also be required to wear masks indoors unless eating or drinking.
It’s been more than 40 years since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic that swept through the gay community. AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF) was founded in 1982 out of the community’s deep desire to do something to help their friends, partners, and family through these scary and uncertain times. They did this by providing emergency financial support. Only a few years later in 1987, AIDS Benefits Counselors, which would later become PRC, was founded to help those affected by HIV navigate their way through securing disability benefits. After merging with PRC in 2016, AIDS Emergency Fund was renamed Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) but the program’s goal remains the same: helping individuals living with HIV/AIDS to overcome economic and housing barriers to medical care.
Lee Harrington is Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA)’s Director of Client Services, and has been on the front lines of the HIV pandemic since the beginning, and with EFA and AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF) before that since 1997: a remarkable 24 years. He’s helped tens of thousands find their footing and build more stable lives, and at the end of December, he will retire and hand the reigns over to a new era of compassionate life changers.
We recently sat down with him to give you an inside look into what EFA’s services mean to our clients.
Lee moved to San Francisco in 1973. In the late 1990’s he was a popular DJ in the Castro nightclub, the Castro Station, providing locals a place of escape at a time when HIV/AIDS was heavily affecting the community. Having seen ads for AIDS Emergency Fund around town, and having two roommates who’d been helped by the program, Lee decided to devote his free time during the day and started volunteering. After three months, AEF offered him a part-time job. When the Castro Station closed in 1999, Lee’s position became full-time, and he’s been with the organization ever since.
What is EFA? Can you break it down for someone who is unfamiliar?
“EFA is short-term emergency financial assistance. As the initials would indicate, short term isn’t quite as obvious. A lot of people come back year after year as things continue to get more expensive and they fall farther and farther behind. The goal is to help them get stabilized, and when they do, those funds can go to help somebody else. We have a lot of repeat clients because they’re living on the edge, or homeless, many times in combination with issues of mental illness and substance abuse disorders.”
Can you tell us about the progression of the work being done at AEF and PRC during your tenure?
“Emergency assistance started off as a grassroots, kind of a neighborhood thing. People sat around kitchen tables while our friends were getting sick with what was then an unknown disease, and they started taking up collections. As more friends became sick, they took up more collections. They approached local businesses with penny jars for people to throw in their loose change. Eventually, both the pandemic and the organization got really big, so we incorporated into a nonprofit and started to receive funds from the federal government through the Department of Public Health (DPH). Eventually, our budget grew to $1 Million, but the need continued to grow and grow.”
What is the main focus of EFA today?
“Our focus is assisting our HIV clients with short-term financial needs to help them get stabilized. We have a basic grant of $500 per year for qualifying clients that can be used to help pay for things like housing, utilities, and medical bills, and an additional $1,000 that we can combine with that to help prevent an eviction or to help pay a deposit if somebody finds affordable stable housing to move into. We can also use that $1,000 for medical expenses like dental work, eyeglasses, and hearing aids: things that people can’t really afford on their own. These days we’re doing a lot of work to keep people housed, to keep the lights turned on, or their refrigerator working, things like that. We also help clients get cell phones, which have become undeniably important. There just isn’t enough out there as far as long-term solutions. One thing I get excited about, however, is when clients are able to transition into PRC’s other services. Our residential behavioral health program for example does an exceptional job stabilizing people with mental illness or substance use issues.”
Do you find that this helps clients to get to somewhere more stable?
“Yes, in combination with PRC’s other services: workforce development, computer training, and job placement. They all play important roles. Our workforce development program has an amazing record when it comes to helping clients find various kinds of work.”
What does a success story look like?
“When a client has been struggling for years, and we help them get just far enough ahead to gain momentum, or they find housing, or we help them get housed. For a client with really expensive dental issues, if we can get teeth in their mouth so that they can eat. It’s the little things. When we don’t hear from them again, it’s usually a good sign that things are going well. It’s not that we don’t want to hear from them, but in this context, it’s incredibly gratifying to not hear from somebody. It feels like we’ve done something really useful and valuable.”
How many clients do you serve on a yearly basis?
“We serve between 1,500 and 1,600 clients annually. I typically see between 7 and 15 clients each day.”
How many people are in your department?
“There are currently two of us: there’s me and another manager who assists with client intake. Before the pandemic, we had a cadre of volunteers that helped with intakes, bill paying, and so on. It would be great to have them back but with COVID-19, we’ve been hesitant to start the volunteer program up again.”
Who is eligible for EFA?
“Anyone who lives in San Francisco and is HIV+. Income limits may apply, depending on circumstances.
How can people apply?
“Individuals can apply in-person at our office during set hours Monday through Friday. They can also apply through one of our community partners. We ask to see some documentation: I.D., proof of residence, and proof of income, which, either you prove that you have income and how much, or you declare that you don’t have any income at all. For the proof of residence, if they are homeless, they can fill out an affidavit of intention to live in San Francisco or they can have a case manager attest to their situation. And then if they want help with rent, we need a copy of a lease or a rental agreement. If they want a bill paid, they need to provide me with a copy of the bill.”
How long does it take for clients to receive financial assistance?
“These days it’s pretty much instantaneous. We issue checks once a week. We used to write them twice a week. We’ll get back to that eventually.”
Has this work impacted your volunteers?
“I’ve had volunteers that have gone on to social work, and some have even earned their master’s degrees and become licensed clinical social workers and the like. It’s wonderful to know that they’re inspired by the work done here. It makes you feel good, and it’s an indicator that this work is important and needs to be done.”
If PRC wasn’t here, what would it be like, for some of these clients?
“Imagine if you lived on $900 a month and could barely maintain a room in a hotel with a shared bathroom down the hall, one that’s always filthy. Many of the SRO’s in town are like this. Many of them don’t have kitchen facilities either, so you’re limited to microwave meals, or you have to eat out all the time, mostly relying on food banks, free food in the park, or wherever the free meals are. We strive to stabilize the lives of our clients so that this isn’t the case for them. Imagine trying to get by without a telephone. We provide one mobile phone, per client, per year. We pay phone bills for any carrier, and we provide phones that won’t restrict content. Something so simple can be a lifeline for our clients to rely on for many of their needs.”
So you’re retiring. How excited are you?
“I’m very excited and looking forward to being able to go to a museum, or to a movie, or a farmers market, or even just shopping; simple things that I typically haven’t been able to do during the day. I have a few writing projects that I will be able to focus on, and at some point, I’d love to get out of the country and do some traveling. My bucket list includes Croatia, Spain, Vienna, Raycevick, and even Paris.”
From all of us here at PRC, we wish Lee the best and have no doubt that he will enjoy all that’s yet to come to the fullest. He’s set the bar high and has been instrumental in building a program that has improved the lives of many, and in astounding ways. We’re committed to providing the same compassionate level of care his clients are accustomed to.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about Lee and the instrumental work he and EFA have done for our clients over the years, please consider making a donation today.
If you would like to learn more about the work being done at PRC, we invite you to read more client and staff stories on our blog.