Summary of SFNM’s Work Since 1972 and its Current Ministries
In 1972 house churches began with small groups gathering for worship, discussion of Biblical passages, Communion and shared food and life stories.
The Network CoffeeHouse on Bush Street offered programs 5 nights a week, good, inexpensive coffee and goodies, and a safe place to be and to meet others, primarily young adults. People from the Tenderloin quickly discovered the Coffeehouse and led us back down the hill into the Tenderloin. The CoffeeHouse operated for 8 years before losing its lease.
Philosophical discussion groups were held with TL residents and homeless people. This outreach ended with the death of its leader.
Tenderloin ElderFriends recruited volunteers to become friends, support persons and regular visitors with frail elderly people living in the TL. The program continued for 17 years until given over to another agency.
Network Center for the Study of Christian Ministry included 4 theological seminaries in a 9 month program of contextual theological education as one year of a student’s three years of seminary. Neither an internship nor an urban ministry training, SFNM developed this program to integrate students’ half-time active field education placement with basic classes such as Bible, church history, ethics, pastoral care, spiritual discipline, etc. It operated for 9 years.
The Network Journal is a bi-monthly educational publication and is still being published.
Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church, with waning membership and no pastor, entered into an agreement with SFNM in which the 4 staff members of SFNM joined the part-time church administrator to form a half-time pastoral team. This continued for 11 years during which time the congregation increased from about 15 active members to 120, the budget tripled and the average age dropped by 20 years. The church became a Sanctuary Church, continued its long-term ministry with seniors, and expanded its historic welcome and open door practice to affirm publicly its inclusion of LGBT people into full membership and service. SFNM continued its ministry in the TL, bringing TL residents and homeless people into the church and church members into the TL. Due to an increased need for all the staff’s time to be used in the TL, SFNM resigned as pastoral team and the congregation called a regular pastor.
SFNM took leadership in forming the Tenderloin AIDS Network, leading to the establishment of the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center in 1990. The Center continued for 5 years until it was incorporated as a stand-alone agency.
Ambassador Hotel chaplaincy has been in operation five days a week for 25 years, continuing today with both SFNM staff and volunteers serving as chaplains in this residential hotel. Most of the residents are people with serious mental, emotional. addiction or physical problems living in single room supportive housing.
In 1980, SFNM began performing memorial services for people served by residential hotels or agencies serving homeless and other poor people, as well as people who die on the streets. This ministry continues, averaging 3 memorial services a week. SFNM also organizes an Interfaith Memorial Service for all Our Homeless Dead every December and collaborates with another ministry in a Good Friday Pilgrimage through the complex of government buildings and the Tenderloin itself, utilizing contemporary wording for the Stations of the Cross and calling attention to the plight of the poor.
In 1995, SFNM Housing Corporation (SFNMHC) was formed and constructed a 5 story apartment building for low income families in partnership with Asian Neighborhood Design. The SFNM Housing Corporation continues supervising this award-winning permanent housing. For many years, a program for tutoring children in the building, especially in computer skills, was conducted in the apartments, then expanded into the larger community. As other children’s programs developed in the TL, this one was discontinued.
A computer training center, offering free computer skill classes, drop-in computer use, individual email addresses, tutoring, and special classes for seniors outgrew the original 11 machine lab and reopened in a partnership with the St. Anthony Foundation as the Tenderloin Technology Lab with 38 machines. This gives more equipment availability, as well as teaching repair of machines, aiding in job readiness and placement, etc.
In May, 1997, the SFNM Housing Corporation acquired title to a 3 story building, plus a contract with HUD and another with the City of San Francisco Department of Human Services for transitional housing for single homeless women. A contract with the City’s Public Health Department was also secured and the SafeHouse for Homeless Women Leaving Prostitution opened in January, 1998, and is still in operation. In November, 1997, the Sisters of the Presentation formed a partnership with SFNMHC to support this ministry.
Throughout its history, SFNM has been involved with other progressive individuals and organizations in working for social justice and change, engaging in political action, and challenging structural injustice. Some examples are working for more and improved affordable housing, more and improved health care including treatment of those with substance abuse problems, changes in city, state and federal budgets to redirect resources toward eliminating causes of poverty, toward care for all Creation, and for peace. We also work for specific changes in the TL, such as reducing the number of off-sale liquor licenses and “adult entertainment” in this neighborhood and improving pedestrian safety.