The November 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

A Day to End Poverty

Death Behind a Dumpster

Rebirth of Union Power

Threats, Lies and Videotape

Frances Townes Dedication to Justice

Bob's Blankets

Legal Victory for Fresno Homeless

Suitcase Clinic in Berkeley

Susan Prather Receives the Jefferson Award

Santa Cruz Merchant Abuses Homeless Man

Economy Booms for Billionaires

Unions Are the Solution to Our Unjust Economy

Russians Who Work with Homeless Youth

Jack the Ripper: First Serial Killer of Street People

Right to Exist

Poor Leonard's Almanack


October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Suitcase Clinic and the Share Support Group

by Maureen Hartmann

A Suitcase Clinic volunteer gives a pedicure at the women's clinic. Lydia Gans photo

A homeless man came to Berkeley's Suitcase Clinic to attend meetings of the support group, SHARE (Searching for How to Achieve Respect and Empowerment). The man came week after week to the SHARE meetings, but was very quiet in the beginning, according to Amit Gill, administrative coordinator of the Suitcase Clinic. Then he began to gather his courage and talk about his victimization by the police on Telegraph Avenue.

Through this forum, the client of the Suitcase Clinic educated the student volunteers in the group about this violation of human rights. Important social truths often come from the most marginalized members of society, those who are too often silenced and voiceless.

Each week, homeless and low-income people discuss one or two subjects selected by the SHARE group. Clients and volunteers both grow from this experience, according to Amit Gill. SHARE is part of the General Suitcase Clinic and meets on Tuesday nights from 7:30-9:00 p.m. in the First Presbyterian Church between Haste and Channing in Berkeley.

I attended a SHARE meeting in late October with about eight sharers. The topics chosen by the gathering were Berkeley politics and making life decisions.

SHARE works with a new entity, SPEAC (Student Project for Education and Advocacy in the Community.) The students' attendance, according to Gill, does not vary as much as the attendance at the SHARE meetings, so they are able to assist SHARE with social justice projects.

One such project provided lockers for homeless people to safely store their belongings. The newly installed lockers are assigned to homeless people using the benefits, shelter and showers of the Multi-Agency Service Center (MASC) in the Berkeley Veteran's Building.

As well as attending the SHARE program, I had a chance to observe many other exciting services offered at the General Suitcase Clinic. There was basketball in a roomy gym, and several men were playing. Next door to the gym was a spacious hallway where some clients were sitting on folding chairs and watching a movie on television. Down the hall, student volunteers were signing clients up for services. Someone made an announcement that everyone who signed up for optometry would be seen in the evening.

In another downstairs room, two men were having their hair cut by student volunteers; a young woman volunteer was passing out small plastic bottles of toothpaste; and foot washing was taking place. Foot-washing is mentioned in the Bible as a compassionate act of selfless service. It is also basic podiatry, since the clients are given anti-fungal cream.

Gill said that the chiropractic services had greatly helped a homeless man. He had been working on finding a job. The man had a bad back, and after several treatments over several weeks, his back felt better. He came into the clinic one evening nicely dressed, and told Gill that he had found a job.

Other services offered by the General Suitcase Clinic are medical services and legal assistance, including help in dealing with warrants, landlord and tenant disputes, and applying for financial aid.

The Suitcase Clinic began by just providing medical services. It was dubbed "Suitcase Clinic" because of the suitcases full of medical supplies that student volunteers from the Joint Medical Program of University of California at Berkeley and UC at San Francisco took with them in vans before they had a venue.

There are actually two other clinics under the Suitcase Clinic umbrella. One is a Women's Clinic at the women's shelter on Dwight Way, and the second is the Youth Clinic at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on Dana and Bancroft in Berkeley.

The Women's Clinic offers medical, chiropractic, and homeopathic services, optometry, foot washing, health education, massage, and children's services. The Women's Clinic extends a helping hand to low-income and homeless, ignored women and children, some of whom are abused.

The Youth Clinic at St. Mark's Church offers medical services, optometry, acupuncture, legal assistance and dinners.

According to Gill, the many and meaningful services are funded chiefly by the Pearl Vision Foundation, which has donated $15,000 to optometry services, and the San Francisco Foundation, which has funded another $15,000 for medical and optometry services.

In the past, the Berkeley community has contributed to the Suitcase Clinic's general budget and UCB currently contributes $1500-$1800 each semester. The clinic is also dependent on individual contributions of any amount for needed supplies.

Gill said, "My vision of the future for the Suitcase Clinic is that we can continue to excel at the services we are offering now. And I hope that we can expand and continue to offer new services and be able to assess what the clients, homeless and low-income, really need.

"As for SHARE and SPEAC, I just hope that we can provide greater client and student participation, and that we can continue to work on projects like the umbrella drive. We are working on a little project that collects one-dollar donations towards umbrellas for the rainy season."

Contribute to the Suitcase Clinic
The Suitcase Clinic is always in need of funds.Send checks made out to "Suitcase Clinic" to:
Suitcase Clinic
570 University Hall #1190
Berkeley, CA 94720

Volunteer Assistance
To volunteer, call (510) 643-6786 for listing of services, or go to the clinics during evening open hours. Addresses and times of the clinics are:

General Suitcase Clinic
c/o First Presbyterian Church
2401 Dana, Berkeley, CA
6-9 p.m. Tuesdays

Women's Clinic
c/o Dwight Women's Shelter
7:30-9 p.m. Mondays

Youth Clinic
c/o St. Mark's Church
2300 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
6-10 p.m. Mondays

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

E-mail: Spirit

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Published by American Friends Service Committee

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