Category Archives: General Comments

Dealing with Realities

The Guardian Group steering committee decided in May, 2018 to suspend its routine meetings and operation.

Guardian Group Getting Ready to March in Pride 2017First, the US government’s anti-refugee policy has stopped newcomers from coming to the Bay Area. The group last received a refugee client in July, 2017. While a trickle of other queer refugees – maybe two or three this year – have come to the Bay Area, the official volunteer agency (VOLAG) tasked with resettling them has placed all them in the East Bay.

That brings up the second reason the group has not had additional clients: the housing costs in San Francisco. Even with the very modest government benefits for refugees, it is very, very difficult to find places for newcomers to stay that fit their small budget. So, the VOLAG has relied on people in the East Bay who have volunteered to provide discounted housing for its few new clients. There haven’t been enough new refugees for the VOLAG to seriously try to locate refugee housing in San Francisco.

Moreover, attempting to help newly-arrived asylum seekers is beyond the capability of our small volunteer program. Asylum seekers receive no government assistance and are ineligible for public benefits (except for medical care in San Francisco). Our group feels that it would be misleading to offer help to asylum seekers when the costs of living cheaply in San Francisco still is well over $1,000 a month and our foreseeable donations and gifts total only a few thousand dollars for the year. We cannot responsibly offer to “support” a new asylum seeker arriving in San Francisco.

Rather than meeting while having no new people to help, the Guardian Group has decided to support its existing clients who still qualify for aid. We are ready to start meeting again as soon as our committee finds out newcomers are coming, housing is available, or donations are flowing in.

We have volunteers ready to reactivate the group when new refugees arrive.

But, for the moment, we will check in, mentor, and care about the 18 people we have met as refugees and asylum seekers since 2011.

We plan on celebrating at the church some individual refugee and asylum seeker success stories in the fall, and we give great thanks for the members and friends who have supported our clients with housing, financial donations, and love.

Thank You! You Gave $6,195!!

Faithify Funded noticeThe Guardian Group is very grateful to the many people who gave money to help LGBT refugees and asylum seekers settle in San Francisco.

You were very generous, and we promise to use the money wisely.

We set an ambitious goal of $5,000 at the urging of our Senior Minister, the Rev. John Buehrens. He said that members of our home Unitarian Universalist community, their friends, and other people of faith were sure to come through.

If we didn’t get $5,000 in pledges, we would get nothing.  That’s crazy, but we signed up for that!

And, you came through.  Thank you!

By the end of the campaign on the Fourth of July donors pledged $6,195. That’s 123.9% of our goal.

Thank you so much!

Why Say “Queer” ?

Mighty Queer T-shirt in HRC store windowWe received a polite question from a visitor asking why we used the term “queer” for the people we helped when historically that word has been used as a homophobic taunt.

We are not arbitrators of good taste or cultural terminology, but we’ve seen over the past years gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex… sexual minority… people have worked to reclaim the word “queer”. Younger people first started using it to describe their community, and it is preferred — or at least accepted — by most LGBTQI people now.

The danger in listing LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, or whatever specific set of initials you choose is that you will inadvertently leave out a letter that someone will say is who they are. Using a generic term like “queer” finesses the problem of leaving someone out.

It’s likely that there are some LGBTIQ people from an older generation (like me) who still feel uncomfortable about the word “queer” because it was used against them. However, I hope that the general wide acceptance and the context we use the term in will make the most people possible feel included and respected.

I snapped this photo of the clothing for sale in the Castro Human Right’s Campaign window. They’re a pretty conservative LGBT rights organization, and even they are selling t-shirts for proud queers!

$2,175 Raised in First Crowdfunding Campaign

Flowers in front of a Flaming Chalice with "$2,175! Thank You!" textThank you!

We are very grateful for people who clicked and donated yesterday to the Guardian Group’s first attempt to raise money through crowdfunding. Our GiveOUT page shows a total of $2,175 has been donated to help LGBT refugees, asylum seekers, and asylees.

We appreciate the Horizon Foundation’s offer to let us participate in the nationwide GiveOUT Day. During the 24 hours of this campaign our supporters shared our posts, retweeted, and donated.

The is the Guardian Group’s first experience asking for money through social media. It worked! We will be back… but, not too often. Our next fundraising will include online donations, but it will focus on people of faith and, specifically, Unitarian Universalists. Not so many general Tweets and Facebook posts!

The money raised will allow us to continue to help LGBT newcomers settle in the Bay Area. The funds will go to things like bicycle repairs, bus passes, cell phone service, and some emergency housing support.

San Francisco is very expensive. The money we received will help us help vulnerable people get a start creating a new, free life.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

My Thoughts on Why

How difficult. How extraordinary. People come here and they don’t have any idea of what their life will be like. Husbands with wives awaiting, mothers whose children have yet to gain entrance… and those persecuted in their countries for who they are coming and hoping there is acceptance and not persecution. The world is shuffling and figuring out how best to deal with all these differences.

My parents came from Holland after WWII. Holland had been destroyed and many were looking for a better life. My mom came with her parents and siblings (except for my aunt who was already married to a Hollander) But still one of 13. Earlier, before WWI, my grandfather had lived here in CA but had to go back to serve in the military of Holland. They lived through WWII in occupied Holland but he always wanted to return to CA. My uncles and aunts worked in the underground to fight the Germans. This was 1945. And my grandfather finally made it possible to go to the USA in the late 1900’s.

To be an American. My parents brought us up on 600 acres of land in the central valley of CA with 300 milking cows. This could be thought of as a dynasty now but we were in the dairy business with 2 other uncles. And the land was flood plain and our profits were good because there were milk support prices from the feds. We grew and we brought more people over from Holland and the Azores … we grew and became successful. And if you know the dairy business you will know it is 24 hours a day 365 day a year. Growing up I remember going once a year to a “summer camp” but always being home… never going out to dinner or other diversions. … but never feeling that we were in any way deprived. However, there were times with classmates, because we foreign and “unknown”, were not accepted in the little everyday ways of sleep-overs or regular visitations. We were living in a white American community – even though we were “white”. And my parents’ accents made them different, and in some way we were made to feel “different” – even though we were white. But in this small community in the 1950’s, we were different. We lived on a farm and my parents did not have a college education. They were not lawyers or doctors and yet they paid for us to go to private Catholic schools. We only lived in the country … even though my father was the smartest man I have ever known.

A client and Jackie

Luduina’s Client (left) with her at a forum in February, 2016

So, we grew. My father insisted that we go to college … something that he had wanted for himself but could not because his world had shattered. But we all did.

And now I volunteer many years later to assist in different ways new people coming at a time when it is so much more difficult to be a citizen of this country. I work and honor their strength and beliefs. It doesn’t matter why. But I can feel the hope and desire and belief that this is a country that accepts us … in all our differences and experiences … we are all hopeful. And our lives have extraordinary possibilities.