Monday, January 23rd 2017 from 6 – 9 pm
The Black and Brown Social Club
Valencia between 15th and 16th Streets, near 16th/Mission
Information, discussion & community!
Monday Night Forum!!
Occupy Forum is an opportunity for open and
on all sides of these critically important
Father River Sims and Philip O’Donnell:
Working with the Homeless
“Compassion is not a relationship between the
healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we
know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.
Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
way River Sims tells his horror stories, calmly, barely raising his voice,
poised like the Anglican priest he is, makes them seem all the more ugly by
contrast. “He’s third-generation homeless,” says Sims, speaking in tones
members of Old San Francisco might use to speak of their lineage. “His mother
shot him up with heroin for the first time when he was 8 years old.”
Father Christian River Sims has been working with San Francisco’s
homeless, junkies and sex workers, primarily in the Polk, Haight and Civic Center areas, for the past 22 years.
His ministry, which he calls Temenos
Catholic Worker (temenos is Greek for that which is abandoned, cut off or
separated), is really just Sims, working out of a sparsely furnished
one-bedroom apartment crammed with the things that he needs for his work. Sims
exchanges 2,000 needles a week, which he gets from the Prevention Point needle
exchange program. He also distributes condoms, clothing — socks are a big draw
with the rainy weather — and as much advice as people ask him for, about drug
rehab or shelters or where the free showers are or anything else a street
survivor might want to know.
knows Sims. He knows all their stories. He never gives them money, so they
don’t ask. “I must have spent $8,000 on pizza the first year I was out here,
trying to gain their trust,” Sims laughs. He survives on donations, gets food
from the Food Bank, lives on less than $800 per month
himself. It’s his life, usually five or six nights a week, from 8 p.m. until 4
“I am a priest who feels uncomfortable within
a church building because I was condemned, and pushed out because of being gay;
yet God pulled me back kicking and screaming… In this life of contradictions,
what holds me together is my faith in the living person of Jesus of Nazareth…
My resolve is to continue to follow him in his summons that “You shall love the
Lord your God with your mind, strength and your soul, and your neighbor as
yourself. I see Jesus in every one of the people I see on the street.”
with Father Sims is a young man he works with, Phillip O’Donnell, who is
writing a book “Rise from the Mud… Breathe.” “My name is Phillip
O’Donnell. I’m 22 years old and homeless here in San Francisco. Homeless with
purpose… I have been trying to get an SRO, but the waiting lists are long and
space is scarce. In the meantime, I sleep on the streets, Golden Gate Park, and
when luck comes my way, a hostel or a generous person’s apartment. Although I
am surviving, the lack of consistency makes it extremely difficult to move
forward especially when the tendrils of my depression strike at my soul… Upon receiving housing, I plan to work
for one of the organizations providing the services that are critical to my
survival. I want to contribute to the effort to end homelessness as well as
meet more people facing homelessness and learn their story in an attempt to
gain a better understanding of the root causes of homelessness. Homelessness
is, in part, a consequence of the flaws in the design of our civilization. If
we can illuminate these flaws and how our civilizational design creates
homelessness, we can make more effective efforts to help people get on their
feet and keep others from facing this hardship. Also, I will continue working
on publishing my first novel, Rise
from the Mud…Breathe, and finish my college education.”
San Francisco contends with its growing population of people pushed out of
housing and onto the streets, its mentally ill and people in need, Father River
Sims and Phillip O’Donnell can help orient and guide us as to how we can be most useful and take
responsibility for our sisters and brothers on the streets.
Time will be allotted for announcements.
Donations to Occupy Forum to cover costs are encouraged; no
one turned away!