Category Archives: Stories

Group Helps two More Asylum Seekers

This week the Guardian Group met with two asylum seekers new to San Francisco and volunteered to help them settle in the Bay Area. The number of people we have helped since our formation in 2011 is now 14.

Here are our new clients:

23-Year Old Gay Man from Uganda"My boyfriend is an immigrant" T-shirt

“M” came to the US in June for the family’s business and while here his family back home discovered pictures of M and his boyfriend. The family told him that they would have him arrested as soon as he returned.  They also cut off his access to money. So, without having planned to stay in the US, M is forced to seek asylum and has no resources to support himself. And, like most asylum seekers, he is not eligible to work for at least six months.

The people in the Guardian Group who have met him are impressed by his intelligence and spirit.

Our group has given him food, a clipper card,  and went with him to Goodwill to buy some clothes.  He has been in touch with a pro-bono attorney to file the formal asylum request.

He needs a laptop computer and housing starting August 25th.

33-Year Old Lesbian from Cameroon

“J” is a lovely woman, very pleasant and speaks fairly good English.  She is living with a lesbian couple and their 3-year-old daughter.  They are in an apartment near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Back home J did not have a regular job, but sold ice cream on the street.   She suffered from brutal physical and mental attacks and escaped to the United States in April this year.  When she arrived in the US the Immigration and Custom Enforcement put her in detention until she was bailed out and joined the women from Oakland.

The Guardian Group will help her connect with local services and provide assistance with the living costs.

The Need Grows, Our Work Continues

The Guardian Group gets frequent emails and calls from people asking for help and from people who know newcomers who need support.  We cannot help most of the people we learn about because of our limited resources.  We are very happy that we were able to accept these two clients this week.

Changing Lives

I was grateful to be invited to give a reflection on my experience with the Guardian Group at the Worship Service of the San Jose Unitarian Church on May 22, 2016.

After the shootings Sunday morning at Pulse in Orlando, my gratitude in being able to help these refugees and asylum seekers is only greater.

One refugee’s journey to San Francisco

“Subhi Nahas remembers the exact day when he knew he’d have to leave Syria. It was the Spring of 2012. He was twenty four, on a bus, going to university take a final exam. It was the last exam he needed to graduate.”
— KALW Radio Crosscurrents

The powerful story of Subhi, a gay Syrian refugee now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, is much like the stories of the clients of the Guardian Group.  Subhi is not a client of the Guardian Group, but his harrowing ordeal is too familiar.  He also was helped by ORAM and by the Jewish Family and Community Services/East Bay, agencies that have supported several of the Guardian Group’s clients.

Read the full story and listen to the Crosscurrents report.

Subhi Nahas with Fred Hertz,

Subhi Nahas with Fred Hertz, who hosted him for his first two months in California Photo by ELI WIRTSCHAFTER

Read “Gay and Marked for Death”

The New York Times has published an op-ed story about Monday’s UN Security Council session on the persecution of LGBTI people in Africa, the Middle East, and many other areas around the world.

One of the men who is scheduled to testify in front of the United Nations, Subhi Nahas, is a San Francisco residence who is a client of the Guardian Group’s partner, the Jewish Family and Children Services of the East Bay.  The Guardian Group is not helping this 28-year-old Iraqi man, but we appreciate his courage in testifying.

Read more from the New York Times.

An Update on Our Folks

Saturday was a fun day… a great day for me.

Junior in Sausalito

Junior in Sausalito

Junior, the only client we have who doesn’t mind being publicly identified, and I brunched at Spinnakers in Sausalito and then walked around the main street taking in the sights.  I was able to take Junior on his first trip across the Golden Gate Bridge and share his first reactions to the views and gestalt.  Wonderful!

We came back into the city, and later met up with a Tunisian seeking asylum, a Tunisian who has been granted asylum, and my husband (who works with the Tunisian asylee).

It was a relaxed, happy day.

Which got me thinking. Much of what the Guardian Group talks about is needs, problems, and the housing crisis.  All those issues are real and pressing, but I need to explain that meeting our clients, learning from them, and feeling proud of their successes is selfishly rewarding. Completely a high.

So far we have helped/are helping 11 people settle in the Bay Area.  Some folks we have provided ad hoc, limited-term support.  Others we have an on-going friendship with, even when they do not need support.

I want to share a list of our clients and my take on their current situation.  I see such progress in their lives!

Here are our folks, as I understand it, listing from our first to our most recent:

  1. F, a now 24-year-old, is a refugee from Iran. He has been in the US a bit over two years.  He supports himself by working at a restaurant. He’s going to junior college and applying to four-year schools.  He has Obamacare and is healthy, and he’s plagued by the reassuringly normal, and heartbreakingly severe, insecurities of 20-something-year olds.  My problem is appreciating how severe the “normal” insecurities are because I am so delighted with what he’s worrying about.
  2. S, now a 39-year-old asylee from Tunisia, has been in the US 2 1/2 years..  S is employed full-time at a job in San Francisco that has healthcare, vacation, and benefits.  He is very concerned about the high cost of housing and living in San Francisco.  I am so pleased those are his issues.
  3. Z, a refugee from Iraq has been in SF since 2013. He is now 30 years old, is working for a local furniture store, and recently was named employee of the month. Z has stable housing, too.
  4. A, a refugee from Iraq, has also been in country since 2013. He  has stable housing and is getting needed dental care.  He is worried about schooling.  He is attending City College and maintaining a B average.
  5. T, from Uganda, recently was granted asylum and does not receive our financial support any more.
  6. A, from Russia, was granted asylum in late summer, 2014. He’s working 7 shifts a week in restaurants, has a relationship, rents a room in a shared flat, and needs no Guardian Group assistance.
  7. A is a 32-year-old asylum seeker from Nigeria who is entrepreneurial and professionally trained.  He needs better housing while he waits for his date in immigration court.  Our support for food, MUNI, cell phone, and other necessities help him.
  8. Junior from the Congo arrived as a refugee in November, 2014.  He is graduating from job training, has stable housing for another five months, and enjoying his exploration of San Francisco.  He receives the normal government benefits for newly-arrived refugees and doesn’t currently need our financial support.
  9. A from Tunisia has been in the US seeking asylum for approximately two months.  He has free stable housing at the moment, and the Guardian Group is helping with other expenses. A is a professional, fluent in English, and very personable.
  10. D from Nigeria is seeking asylum along with …
  11. J from Nigeria.  I am not personally helping these men (other people in the Guardian Group are their primary contacts), but I hear that they are working through the legal/immigration process. Our support for food, MUNI, and other necessities help them.

The longer-term Bay Area refugees and asylees are making their own way and struggling with “normal” problems.  They are fun to be around, and I am grateful that most are remain in emotional contact with our group.

We are using donated funds mainly to provide food, public transportation cards, cell phones, and other necessities to our asylum seekers who are not legally able to work. We also step in to help our low-income folks obtain dental care at UOP Dental School and to help with other extraordinary expenses.

But, mainly, my contact with these young people is incredibly enjoyable.