Thank you, Sister Bernie Galvin

I've been carrying around the October issue of Street Sheet, the monthly newspaper of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. There's a lovely tribute to Sister Bernie Galvin, who founded Religious Witness with Homeless People in 1993, and retired earlier this year, after 15 years.

Robin and I moved to San Francisco in January 1995. Religious Witness had just wrapped up a series of sleepouts in city parks to protest then-Mayor Frank Jordan's "Matrix" policy of shuffling the homeless along. An elderly attender at our meeting, Pauline, had joined the sleepouts -- at the age of about 80 or so, as I recall. I was a co-signer of a statement that Religious Witness ran as an advertisement in local newspapers. I went to several vigils by City Hall.

One of her best results came in the Presidio National Park, on the site of the former military post. The Presidio Trust had planned to tear down an entire neighborhood of former military family housing out by the beach, and Bernie organized to prevent it from happening. The housing didn't go to the homeless, but it did prevent much-needed rental housing from simply being torn down. Destruction of the housing is still part of the Presidio's long-term management plan to restore parts of the park to more pristine natural areas, but at least in the meantime the housing is still in use, rather than getting torn down well ahead of restoration. The photo on the Religious Witness home page is from a march they held at that housing tract.

I'm afraid I wasn't as involved after my initial participation. My explanation is that I got a job for a nonprofit housing developer in the Tenderloin neighborhood, which was all about creating homes that marginally housed people could afford. For a while, Robin had her office in the same building Sister Bernie did, so they would see each other from time to time.

I was delighted to find that the Coalition now publishes its stories on a wordpress blog, so I can link to it right here.

I particularly liked the closing quote from Sr. Bernie:
“This I know from my life experience,” she offered: “Hearts that beat strong with genuine compassion for the poor find each other. Hearts that beat with a fierce demand for justice find each other. It is as if the human heart has a magnetic element that pulls us so tightly together around our passion for the poor that our hearts begin to beat as one.”
Blessings to you, Sister Bernie, as you take time for rest, reflection, and discernment of what's next. Thank you for your good work!

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