Pursuing justice for Elders in San Francisco

Posted on December 17, 2013

Earlier this year, when members of St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco, gathered in each other’s homes to share their stories, many were worried about aging — their own and that of loved ones. So, last month members teamed up with San Francisco Organizing Project (SFOP) faith communities Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, Congregation Sherith Israel, and Star of the Sea Catholic Church to host a public forum. They invited several public officials to join them in seeking greater justice for San Francisco elders by entering a Public Covenant of Care.

Two-hundred people braved the rainy night on November 19, including San Francisco Supervisors David Campos and David Chiu, Ms. Colleen Chawla of the Mayor’s Universal Healthcare Council, and Ms. Bonnie Preston of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Community leaders took to the podium, making the case for:

  • Strengthening Healthy San Francisco, the program providing universal access to the City’s healthcare services
  • Ensuring that the City’s Adult Day Health Centers remain open
  • Ensuring that the concerns of their own LGBTQ members are reflected in recommendations heading to the Board of Supervisors

Other community leaders gave personal testimonies:

  • St. John’s own Jim Borrazas spoke of his fear if he should ever lose his own health insurance, and told stories of fellow parishioners and former students who now rely on access to the City’s health services through Healthy San Francisco. “It is because of my concern for these friends of mine that I now add my name to this covenant,” Borrazas said as he signed his name.
  • Another community leader, a restaurant owner, wanted to close the loopholes that enable unscrupulous employers to take back the money intended for their employees’ healthcare, and to make it easier for responsible employers to provide for their employees’ healthcare.
  • A young immigrant and  DREAM student told how critical it is to her family to have access to the City’s health services. Most of her family are undocumented and ineligible for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

After responding to several pointed questions from the Rev. Richard Smith, vicar of St. John the Evangelist, all of the public officials added their names to the covenant. The forum ended with everyone in attendance, including St. John’s senior warden, Timm Dobbins, stepping up to add their own names.

The covenant reads:

Today, we people of faith, along with our civic leaders,
join in covenant to make San Francisco a City for All,
in which:
Everyone has access to healthcare,
Our elders have the necessary services and support to live with dignity, security, and peace

Signed this day, November 19, 2013, in
the City of San Francisco, California

 St. John’s and partner congregations are now at work planning the next steps in their campaign.