Thursday, March 14, 2013


Yesterday was our day off!  Since the shelter offices usually have their office meetings on Wednesdays, the group took a day to explore.  Our Alt. Break leaders, woke us up early and told us they had planned a surprise.  We rode the trolley (no near death experiences this time) down to Fisherman's Wharf and began walking towards Musee Mechanique, a weird looking antique arcade game museum.  We were not excited (we now realize we should have been because it was in The Princess Diaries). 

Seriously, this is a big deal. 
Golden Gate Bridge

Alcatraz, "The Rock"

Anyway, the surprise was actually A BOAT TOUR that took us around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge.  On the water, we had an audio tour of the surrounding bay area.  We saw amazing sights of the
Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

Although we were experiencing some true Bay Area Fog and wind, we were still able to get some breathtaking views.  What a great surprise from our Alt. Break leaders!

Thanks for the surprise, JB and Nicole!
Next, the group went to Pier 39.  This is where we saw a huge group of seals sunbathing!  They were adorable, all cuddled up and napping!

Sweet baby seals sunbathing on Pier 39
Lastly, we took a bus to Golden Gate Park.  We had a relaxing day napping in the sun and playing frisbee and football.  We all have great sunburns to show off!

Sweet baby seals sunbathing in Golden Gate Park 

A Tremendous Tuesday

Heyo!  Nicole and JB here.  Tuesday was definitely a roller coaster ride for our group.  We started the day with a meeting with Meg Owens, of the local homeless coordinating board.  The night before we had reflected on causes and symptoms of homeless and began to try to identify potential solutions.  It was a difficult conversation because the issue is so overwhelming.  Many of our participants were hopeful that the meeting with Meg would clearly define "best practices" for alleviating homelessness in the United States.  She was an incredible speaker and in the hour we had with her she provided us with a wealth of information about the issue and programs being implemented here in SF, as well as the threat posed by sequestration.  Many of us left the meeting with more questions than we started with. Homelessness, especially youth homelessness, is an incredibly complex issue that involves many different systems and institutions.  One participant remarked that it was clear that even confronting the problem in one city was a daunting task- how could we possibly do this on a national level?

the SF Center at 1800 Market St.

After a brief afternoon tour of the Haight-Asbury neighborhood, we moved onto our next meeting with Hajra Khan, the Youth Program Coordinator at the San Francisco LGBT Center.  She started by giving us a tour of the newly opened Queer Youth Space.  It's an incredible area with work stations, a TV area  and a small kitchenette.  The walls are decorated with Community Norms generated by the youth, drawings of what a "safe space," looks like, and a recently started mural project.  Unfortunately, Hajra is the only one who works specifically with youth at the Center and, as such, is unable to keep it open all the time.  Because of lack of funding, many of the incredible programming ideas that she and the Youth Advisory Board have come up with have not come to fruition.  However, the rest of the meeting showed us how much potential this incredible community has.  After our Q&A period and briefing, we moved upstairs to begin setting up for Queer Youth Meal Night.  Queer Youth Meal Night happens every Tuesday.  It brings together local queer youth and service providers for a free meal, a movie, and good conversation in a completely safe space.    The food was delicious, we met lots of wonderful youth activists and got invited to a Queer Dance Party sponsored by Lyric tomorrow night.  Sweet participant Sarah describes it as "Best. Night. Ever."  Others noted that it felt like a family dinner.

Queer Youth Homelessness is a daunting, draining, complex issue, and it's easy to get overwhelmed.  Being able to be welcomed into a community that provides not only things like employment counseling and harm reduction services but also just a sense of community and support, left us with a restored sense of hope and passion.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Day 3- In N Out, Larkin & Trolleys

Our day started out with a trolley ride that almost ended it.

Our trolley driver 
We headed towards the bay on Powell St. almost up a 90 degree angle, hanging off the sides for our dear lives. Passing cars that were literally inches away from us. However, the "best" part of the ride was when the trolley suddenly started rolling back down the hill because of a failed cable wire. Luckily, Our driver was calm, cool and collected and a true hero, and our fearless leaders got us through this troubled time. Despite this near death experience we got a great bonding experience and spectacular views.

Our Awesome Leaders!!!

Next, we climbed a 90 degree angle mountain on foot. Through huffing and puffing we made it to the top of Lombard St. We saw more fabulous views including the bay, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. To make up for the calories we burned we treated ourselves to In N Out Burgers, Fries and milkshakes.

After that we headed to do service work at the Larkin Street Youth Services. Our task was the organize and sort through their donation closet. We learned that the organization serves a 60% male population from ages 18-24, however men's clothing and shoes are not abundantly donated. We learned a lot about their goals and programs, specifically harm reduction and transitional housing as well as Hire-up, a program geared towards helping youth finish school, find jobs and possibly apply for college. We had an amazing time sorting clothes, house-ware items and making candy information packets. Larkin Street also has programs specifically for LGBTQ youth.

Their website is amazing and full of important information:
Serving at Larkin Street Youth Services

Nicole making Chili

We had amazing rice and chili dinner and at the end of the night we went, as a group, to an Open Mic night at a local coffee shop.

The Castro

Everyone woke up super early and we were so excited for our first full day in SF. We rode our first trolley! Then we walked to Harvey Milks Camera Store, in the Castro, and started our walking tour. 
We learned all about the Castro in the 70s and it was so different from the way it looked today.
The podcast we were listening to described a neighborhood where rent was very cheap and the community was dedicated to a social justice movement. This differed greatly from the community we were walking through, as the area was peppered with fancy cafes and stores mostly catered to white men. In fact, while white male couples were seen everywhere, female couples and couples with a person of color were significantly less frequent. The narrator of the tour described several key spots that were a significant hotspot in the 70s that looked very different now than it did then. We ended our tour at City Hall as the narrator described the protests that occured then.  We were not able to go into City Hall, to see the stairs and other key artifacts described in the podcast because there was a Free Tibet protest going on outside of City Hall. It was interesting to watch because the podcast described riots and protest that happened in the 70s for Gay Rights and there was currently a protest going on.  After we finished the podcast, we ate a bagged lunch of PB&J in a small park right across the street from city hall.

After lunch we jumped back on the trolley and had time to explore the Castro. We learned about San Francisco's loose nudity polices, as a women decided to protest...NAKED...on the trolley tracks. Apparently, she had gotten in a fight with a trolley driver. It was...interesting. To continue the nudity trend, we went to hot cookie.  They had penis cookies and naked women cookies. A majority of the cookies featured males, there was only one female cookie. Regardless of the inequality, they were delicious! We continued exploring the Castro and eventually made it back to the start of our podcast tour, at Harvey Milk's Camera Shop. It is no longer a camera store, it is now an HRC store. That was interesting to many of us because the HRC is not truly representative to all of the LGBTQ community. It mainly caters to wealthily and white gay men. Many of us found it disrespectful to Harvey Milk's legacy, because he encouraged diversity.

We ended our day in the Castro by going to the GLBTQ museum. It was super small but it had a lot of interesting information about the struggles of the GLBTQ community. It did not feature a lot on women, different ethnicities, or trans people. It was mostly focused on white males. There was a small section on Harvey Milk and it featured the table that was in the movie, MILK.

Throughout the day, we saw lots of dogs. They were all so adorable and precious that a lot of our free time during the day was spent playing with the dogs.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Experiencing "Californication"

Katherin is sleepy

sleeping beauties on the shuttle

We made it to San Francisco!
It almost seems surreal that we were in the lobby of Anderson Hall at 7 am this morning. Waking up that early took a toll on us all, considering we slept the ENTIRE shuttle ride to the airport.

more sleeping beauties on the plane
The second we stepped of the shuttle bus, we experienced our first group fiasco! One of the people in our group only had her AU ID, and a photo copy of her driver's license. Luckily, it did not affect her getting onto the plane, but needles to say she had a few mishaps along the way.  Sweet altbreak adventures.

The plane ride was also rather interesting. We met an adorable baby named Miriam (our unofficial mascot of the trip), initiated a chat room with people from our AltBreak group (despite being literally a seat away from each other) andddddd slept, again. After almost 6 whole hours of sitting on a plane, we had finally arrived to San Fran.
the classic trolley 
Where we had lunch- the best burgers

We were all mesmerized by the beauty of the city, the rolling hills, the classic trolley cars, and the colorful buildings. Not to mention, our absolute culture shock with the California weather compared to the, shall we say, "unpredictable" DC weather.

plane buddies (Andrew, Kelly & Sarah) 
Despite encountering  an awful smell due to road construction (the "benefits" of living in the city), our hostel pleasantly surprised us. It actually exceeded all of our expectations! However, we were rather scared with the lift's creaking sounds and sporadic movements while riding up to the 5th floor of our humble abode.

After coming out of the elevator, we then found out that none of our keys worked! After multiple tries of swiping, flipping and twisting the key finally opened into the best and most spacious hostel room (for the four of us). After making our beds and passing out for a while, we had a quick meeting before going on our $5 a day grocery shopping extravaganza.

The purpose of the $5 a day per person meal idea, is to better empathize with the social justice nature of our trip. This is roughly the amount of money that people receiving federal assistance for groceries are able to spend.  We split up into 2 teams, and after stressing over scouring through multiple aisles for the perfect and cheapest prices, we ended up WAY under budget for an entire week :)
pretty buildings

We got back to the hostel, put away our groceries, and the cooking team (JB, Sarah & Katherin) made dinner-Aunt Biddie's Mac & Cheese, otherwise known as Biddie Mac. And, of course, we tweaked the recipe by using crumbled Cheez-its, instead of bread crumbs. We zoned out during dinner, had a quick reflection on our day overall and we are now headed to watch "Milk".

dinner and reflection