Category Archives: General Comments

Nigerian Asylum Seeker Granted Asylum

Today one of our clients was told that his asylum application was granted!

US and Gay Flags blended with the words ASYLUM GRANTED shown

We are very, very happy for this man who we have known and worked with for over two years.

This time next year he’ll be eligible to apply for a Green Card. And, four years from today he’ll be able to apply for citizenship.

We are a stronger, better country because he is here.  He will be an excellent citizen.

Our Client Gets a Green Card

Junior with is Green CardLast week Junior received his permanent US residency documents, the “Green Card”.

Congratulations!

Junior’s wait to receive his official notification of permanent residency status was long — but apparently also normal.  He applied in November, 2015 and waited about 16 months. All the while there was no news from the government — the Green Card application process is completely opaque to the “customers”.  It’s very nerve wracking, especially since the November election.

Unless you’ve done something criminal, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting the Green Card. At least as far as I know or what our clients have experienced.

But, the process takes a lot longer than is reasonable, even by the government’s standards. People waiting for Green Cards are told to get one-year extensions of the employment authorizations. But, that time expires before the Green Card arrives. So, more applications, more fees, and more anxiety.

On the other hand, it’s a real celebration when the card arrives and is in your hand!

Guardian Group Adopts Policy and Procedures Manual

Title Page from the Guardian Group Policy and Procedures ManualThe Guardian Group Steering Committee recently adopted a set of policies for our work.

It’s a sign of maturity, I guess!

Since we started meeting in 2011, much of what we did and encountered were the new to us.  We didn’t have time to codify what we were doing, and it felt like everything was being experienced for the first time.

We tried to use common sense and relied on each other to come up with standards for each situation we ran into.  Fortunately, we didn’t have any blow-ups that resulted from our seat-of-our-pants work.  But, new volunteers were frustrated at the lack of any written guidelines, and we wanted people to have an easier time pitching in.

So, we have created a policy and procedures manual.  It’s only 7 pages with two additional pages for agreements on confidentiality and volunteering.  Those last two pages are forms we ask ourselves and our new volunteers to look over and sign.

Of course, creating these policies and procedures represent another “first time” experience for the group.  We expect we left things out and may have gotten some other things wrong.  So, if you have any suggestions or questions, please feel free to comment here or to contact us.

What the Guardian Group Doesn’t Do

Keith Haring Sculpture on the grounds of the de Young Museum

Keith Haring Sculpture on the grounds of the de Young Museum photographed during a visit there with a Guardian Group client.

On this website we have tried to describe the help we can offer LGBTI newcomers to the San Francisco area.  We haven’t attempted to list all the things which our group of volunteers doesn’t do. We thought people would understand that if an action was on our list, then we didn’t do it!

Unfortunately, many LGBTI people throughout the world are desperate.  They contact us hoping we can help with some very real, huge, pressing needs, even though the help they are seeking isn’t something we’ve said we do.

When we hear of these awful, intense needs, we can only offer encouragement and love.  We are not trying to be cruel or selfish, but our group and our church community has limited resources.  We have to do what we can and not pretend to have more resources to share than we do.

Even our clients frequently ask for more help than we can provide.  These requests are the emotionally most difficult.  We know and care for the people who are asking for things we cannot provide.  It’s tough on them and tough on us.

To avoid raising any false hopes, let me explain what our Guardian Group cannot do.

  • We cannot help anyone get into the United States or out of their country into a third-party nation where they can apply to the UN for refugee status.  We have no experience and no insight in this process.  We suggest exploring what the UN-HCR suggests.  We also refer people to the Organization for Refuge Asyluym and Migration (ORAM) .  ORAM has helped several people who eventually became our clients get official refugee status and apply to US for entry while they were in in places like Turkey and South Africa.
  • We have no housing for refugees or asylum seekers.  We help clients look for housing when they need a place to stay, but we have no shelter to offer ourselves.  To be honest, it is very, very, very difficult to find affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay area.  Some of our clients have moved every month until they have been able find a job and rent their own space… and then they generally have roommates.
  • We have no jobs or employment to offer.  We help our clients find job training.  We help them write their resumes and job applications.  However, we don’t employ anyone!
  • We do not provide significant financial assistance to our clients.  The Guardian Group helps newcomers understand the bureaucratic and social complexities of the United States, California, and the San Francisco area.  We provide friendship, advice, and a non-anxious presence. On a practical level, we can help our clients apply for state and city medical coverage, for assistance with food, for disability income, and for general welfare assistance.  However, most able-bodied clients will not qualify for public assistance after their initial 8-month refugee resettlement stipend. In addition, publicly-funded programs do not provide a comfortable level of financial security — newcomers are expected to support themselves by working.

The Guardian Group was established to provide emotional support and personal guidance on how to navigate American culture.   We are not a source for welfare.  Our volunteer group and its supporting religious community do not have the money to provide routine financial assistance.

We have provided some financial assistance to refugees when they have faced some extraordinary expenses in their first few months in San Francisco.  However, we do not have the money to financially assist anyone on an ongoing basis.  Our clients need to rely on jobs, education loans, or scholarships for their needs… mostly jobs!

Warplanes Over San Francisco Celebrate Fleet Week

This week is “Fleet Week” in San Francisco.  The US Navy assigns war ships to San Francisco and gives tours of the ships and generally shows off its power. In addition, the Navy’s exhibition flight group, The Blue Angels, offers a free air show on the Bay Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Blue Angels

The Navy’s Flight Demonstration team, the “Blue Angels” performs their delta formation over San Francisco Bay. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Ryan Courtade (RELEASED)

Starting today the Blue Angels will conduct practice flights over San Francisco.  They are really showing off and drumming up attention for the shows on the weekend.

Formations of fighter jets will be very low in the skies over San Francisco on and off through Sunday.  There will be moments of very loud flyovers and zooming airplanes.

Because the United States has not been the site of arm conflict in 160 years, the sight and sound of warplanes overhead thrills and excites children and adults.  It is showy and festive. It is not scary to the US population.

I realize that you come from areas where armed conflict is present and fighter jets overhead signals danger.  The planes don’t have that same meaning in San Francisco, fortunately.  Please do not be afraid when you see and hear the planes this weekend!

Give contact us if you have any questions or concerns.