We Are Stirring with Pride… and Looking for Housing

The Guardian Group has not been active this year because we haven’t heard of refugees coming to the SF area. But, this week we have been presented with two refugees looking for assistance in SF. If we can find housing for at least one of these people, we will give serious consideration of reactivating the group… Maybe it was the combination of the movie Unsettled being screened and general Pride activism has gotten people to look at our website. Anyway…

Afghanistan FlagThe most urgent, verified need is for housing for a newly arrived refugee from Afghanistan. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and emailed and called usto see if we could help find SF/Bay Area housing for their guy. He is really interested in connecting with local LGBT people, and actually sounds like someone we might consider help mentoring,… but first he needs a place to stay! Here’s what we know about him:

“X” identifies as LGBTQ and atheist. He is from Afghanistan and has been in the country for less than a month. He is around 30 years old We are currently looking for housing for him and he is open to be able to meet other volunteers as well as look for roommates.

The IRC tried putting him in a refugee house where there were other Afghans, but his ethnic group was not too friendly to him because he’s gay. So, they’ve moved him to temporary places like cheap hotels, etc.  But even a cheap hotel is too expensive for very long.

He sounds like a kick…. We have some additional information at we aren’t publishing that really makes him sound like an interesting, worthwhile person.

Please let us know if you or anyone you know have a place we could offer for free/very low cost housing for at least a month?

This guy isn’t an official Guardian Group client, but we would be willing to consider reactivating and finding mentors for support, etc. if we can find him a place to stay.  Please ask yourself, your family, your friends!

If you have any ideas, please contact us.

UNSETTLED Screens in SF, LA, SLC… and beyond!

UNSETTLED: SEEKING REFUGE IN AMERICA is hitting the film festivals, showing why refugees and asylum seekers really come to the United States. The documentary follows 4 newcomers as they work to find stability in San Francisco.

One of the Guardian Group’s clients, Junior Mayema, is featured in the film which also includes a couple of our group’s volunteers as they work with Junior. The photo below is from the film and shows Galen Workman (on the left) and Melanie Nathan greeting Junior as he arrives at the San Francisco Airport from South Africa.

Galen Workman and Melanie Nathan greet Junior Mayema at SFO as he arrives from South Africa.

UNSETTLED is powerful, depressing, and hopeful. See it!

Tickets for the San Francisco Frameline Pride screening — Sunday, June 23 at 1 pm — are still available!

A trailer for the film and additional information is available on the documentary film website. That site also has a SEE IT page telling when the film is coming to festivals around the world.

“Unsettled” Hits the Castro Theater June 23rd at 1 pm

Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America returns to San Francisco as part of the Frameline queer film festival. It’s scheduled to be shown at 1 pm, Sunday, June 23 at the historic Castro Theater. Following the screening there will be a panel discussion “Troubled Sanctuary: LGBTQ+ Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Immigrants in the US.”

Unsettled documents the fight of two lesbians and two gay men to flee the persecution of their home countries and settle in San Francisco. Junior Mayema, a client of the Guardian Group, is one of the film’s subjects.

Come and see this documentary that shows what the Guardian Group does and who we help!.

Tickets starting May 28th.

 filmmakers, subjects, helpers, and friends at the documentary's director's preview in April, 2019.
UNSETTLED: SEEKING REFUGE IN AMERICA filmmakers, subjects, helpers, and friends at the documentary’s director’s preview in April, 2019. photo by © Lydia Daniller

Documentary Features a Guardian Group Client

Filmmaker Tom Shepherd (left) with Guardian Group client Junior Mayema
Filmmaker Tom Shepherd (left) with Guardian Group client Junior Mayema

“Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America” premieres as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival Wednesday, April 17th at 7:30 pm at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco (it shows again Thursday at 8 pm in Oakland).

The film powerfully and heartbreakingly details the challenging process that LGBTQ refugees must go through to find safety and security while starting over in the US. One of the newcomers featured in the movie is a client of the Guardian Group, and a couple of his volunteer helpers appear on screen.

The inspiring new documentary profiles four people who have come to San Francisco to save their own lives. Over the course of this unforgettable group portrait, Subhi (from Syria), Junior (from Congo and our Guardian Group client), and Mari and Cheyenne (from Angola) experience roadblocks and triumphs as they reflect on their respective histories and try to create a home for themselves in an environment that is not always welcoming.

This important film shows what real refugees and asylum seekers are like, contrasted to the mythical boogeymen created by the President.

The documentary is showing as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. https://sffilm.org/event/unsettled-seeking-refuge-in-america/ (See their site for ticketing and more information.) 

The leads and filmmakers of "Unsettled" Junior Mayema -- in the red, white, and blue cowboy hat -- is a client of the Guardian Group.
The leads and filmmakers of “Unsettled” Junior Mayema — in the red, white, and blue cowboy hat — is a client of the Guardian Group.

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.