Thursday, November 01, 2012

Special Feature: San Francisco's Canon Kip Center has been around a very long time for the elderly

Special Feature: Visit to Canon Kip Center in San Francisco, a place for elderly to go in the day time

In speaking with the Executive Director of Episcopal Charities, who in an informal and not really formally on-the-record basis, called this activity of that Charities’ organization defined by call of “The Holy Spirit.” I assume she means all the Episcopal Charity Groups that are in partnership with San Francisco City and County.

Article and interview by Peter Menkin

A Day in the Life of Lolita Kintana

Canon Kip Senior Center (705 Natoma St.) provides a hot lunch and fellowship to low-income elders 60 years and older. Approximately one quarter of program participants is currently homeless. In addition to a meal, the Center offers exercise classes, support groups, nutrition workshops, occasional field trips, and the opportunity to read the paper or play cards. Appointments can be made to see a case manager.
Canon Kip Senior Center is open from 8:00am – 4:30pm Monday through Friday.

–From Canon Kip Senior Center web posting
South of Market in San Francisco is found Canon Kip Senior Center, a place for elderly people to gather, spend their day, have a free lunch, and find out about ways services in San Francisco can help them. This includes help for the frail elderly. Part of Episcopal Community Services, the parent organization that has a budget of $18 million a year, Canon Kip Senior Center is a place where people are happy, enjoying getting together in the daytime, and can meet friends while being aided by a trained staff of dedicated paid workers and by those who solely volunteer in these good works.
This unique ongoing project has a significant number of Philippine elderly as its participants, primarily because of its locale. It is a place where participants have trust of the staff and its facilities, regardless of who the elderly may be by race, creed, religion, or a host of other contemporary factors. In a visit to the facility at 705 Natoma Street, this Religion Writer and architect, photographer Terry Peck met with the people who come to Canon Kip House, and met with the staff to learn more about their work.

One thing apparent is that this organization, a non-profit, though part of an Episcopal Church effort to help people, is not admitted to as a Christian organization, though it carries the name Episcopal. The place is a partnership with the City of San Francisco, part of a joint effort between the Church and the City of San Francisco. Originally Canon Kip began in this form through the efforts of the previous Bishop, The Rt. Reverend William Swing. He had responded to a request by San Francisco’s then Mayor Diane Feinstein, now a long-time U.S. Senator from California. Currently supported and carried on with leadership of the present Bishop, The Rt. Reverend Marc Andrus, the action and even a significant part of the funding of Canon Kip House along with Episcopal Community Charities, comes through joint efforts by a diverse group of Churched people of different denominations, and those of the staff from the secular community. They have significant shared values, though perhaps not strictly considered of as Christian in intent, this sense of helping others and service to others is part of those shared values, which this Religion Writer can in this piece call part of God’s work in the world. Perhaps it is only fair to say many of the people on staff hold an allegiance to human and humanitarian values, solely, by its charter of partnership the Canon Kip Center working under license by the City of San Francisco can be called a journey of Christians and secularists, all people who care for others.

Most funding comes from San Francisco City and County.

In speaking with the Executive Director of Episcopal Charities, who in an informal and not really formally on-the-record basis, called this activity of that Charities’ organization defined by call of “The Holy Spirit.” I assume she means all the Episcopal Charity Groups that are in partnership with San Francisco City and County. But to be clear on the matter, though affiliated in non-formal ways with Episcopal Charities, both Episcopal Community Services and Canon Kip Center are both cut from similar cloth in their funding and efforts, including carrying the moniker, Episcopal.
Of course, Canon Kip works with other agencies in their efforts, else how can they find ways to provide help and services for the elderly and frail elderly who come to them. One is the Department of Aging and Adult Services. This is really an effective way to do business, enter into partnerships with those whose business is old people.

At the Senior Center on a visit. Religion Writer Peter Menkin shown in background on left. Photo by Terry Peck.

In a way their partnerships of an organizational and financial kind with The City and County of San Francisco provide contacts for a responsible course in working with seniors, including staff in this responsibility, and many long term (years of experience) volunteers. Volunteer workers are vital to the good works they are capable of and act on in their life of work.  Many of these volunteers have been with them, even on a daily basis, for 5 years. A few much longer in their volunteering, even to 20 years. This is a dedicated crew, both of volunteer laborers in the field of the elderly, and of the paid staff side.

Having met with Deacon Ken Powell, who has been in his managerial, hands-on position for 3 years, at that point in time just out of The School for Deacons, it is inspiring to learn from him firsthand of the role ordained and religious people can take in concert with the City and County of San Francisco and the joint action of aid and comfort in the Community that can be offered. It is considerable aid and comfort, ongoing aid and comfort, and daily in its reality, just as the good lunch is provided daily to those who come to the Center. For some a significant and important hot meal of the day.
The School for Deacons is a three year program located in Berkeley, California sharing classroom space with Church Divinity School of the Pacific, which is part of Graduate Theological Union, Deacon Ken is considered by a number of people with whom I spoke as a Deacon’s Deacon. That is high praise.

When speaking to him during my visit, he told me that he conducts a worship service at Canon Kip Center, and that in my estimation is enough statement of an overt religious presence, an event that anyone may come to when it occurs. Certainly, The School for Deacons prepared Deacon Ken well for his work with the Elderly, a result of a call to meet the vows of the Episcopal Deacon. It is high praise for the work done by volunteers and staff of the organization that Deacon Ken can work out his Call in life, for here is some of those words of the vows made by a Deacon at time of ordination as they appear in The Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church:
The Deacon says:
  • I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.
  • …through the power of the Holy Spirit, God now calls you to a special ministry of servant hood directly under your bishop. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely.
Deacon Ken calls his work, “Compassionate service.”
No doubt Canon Kip is a good place for a Deacon of The Episcopal Church to work.  Many of the elderly are poor in the area and San Francisco itself. Many of the elderly are the weak. Many of the elderly are the sick, and many are the lonely. Does not Canon Kip meet these needs and purposes of work of the Deacon and others of compassion? Yes, it does.
It is important to note though that Canon Kip is essentially a secular organization; so it is considered, but that spiritual and religious help is available—even prayer.
Deacon Ken explains, “It is the way we offer it: compassionate, not judgmental. We go about our work.” It is clear from his statements that, “The City recognizes shared values: dignity of care, and care values.” He says, our agency works with The Interfaith Council of San Francisco.”


Ken Reggio

  1. 1.     Thank you for joining us in an interview on the work of Episcopal Community Services in San Francisco. Please tell us something of your organization’s mission, and where the annual $18 million dollar budget your Episcopal Community Services organization goes in service to others? Significantly, talk for a few minutes on the partnership your organization holds with the City of San Francisco, why your organization, and in what sense is your organization representative of the Episcopal Church.
Our organization actually goes way back to 1894 when a man William Kip began a mission settlement house South of Mission and that work has continued in our community. It has in a special way played out in our service to homeless people in 1983, and that’s a time when homeless people became visible in our community and in communities all over the country because of a variety of economic factors. In 1983 then Mayor Diane Feinstein, who is now a U.S. Senator from California called Bishop William Swing and asked if the [Episcopal] Church might step up to the response to this new phenomenon of people sleeping on the streets. It was an exceptionally cold and wet winter in San Francisco, and Bishop Swing responded by opening the basement of Grace Cathedral for 40 homeless people.
This was a volunteer run shelter and some of the terrific people that were involved in that early effort are still working with us at Episcopal Community Services today. In the mid-80s in order to keep responding to homelessness in our city, Bishop Swing incorporated the effort and accepted a contract for services with the City of San Francisco. Today we continue to work with the City as well as with the Parishes and people of the Diocese.
How did the Diocese contract with the City—as a public benefit corporation rather than religious institution? That’s our status today, with strong roots and relationships in the Diocese, but with a non-religious focus. Our focus is really on the human as well as religious values for respect of dignity of every person who comes to us, as well as the value that our faith and we as human beings place on the development of community.
Episcopal Community Services is governed by a 23 person Board of Directors. Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus serves as Chair of our Board, and about half of our members are Episcopalians, as we also draw from the broader community: St. Luke’s Parishioner Sedge Dienst serves as Board President; and, Richard Springwater, Andrea Clay, and Joe Sawyer are valued community Board Members. Phil Woods, who himself was homeless at one time, also serves on our Board.
We continue to contract with the City and other government sources for about 75 percent of our $18 million dollar budget, with other funding coming from private contributions and program fees. That would be typical, though the balance of public vs. private funding varies from organization to organization.
While we still do shelter and spend about $7 million dollars on that safety net for 550 people per day, we have expanded our services to include permanent supportive housing for 1,000 formerly homeless single adults and family members.  $9 million dollars is spent on supportive housing. Our employment, education and senior services cost an additional $2 million.  The need for senior help is huge. If we had $4 million to spend on seniors, we could do it. The need is so great, but the income sources are understandably limited.
Significant money is spent on supportive housing. We have affiliate funds that augment the $9 million to a total of $14 million. We have 1,000 formerly homeless individuals and family members in housing, so for about $14,000 per person, per year, we have people housed with dignity and with the services they need to keep from returning to homelessness. The truth is that the Bishop and the people of the Diocese are very supportive of our continuing collaboration with the City of San Francisco. This is public-private partnership at its best.
  1. 2.     From our phone conversation from my home office in Mill Valley, California to your office in San Francisco, you said to me that you had been Director of Catholic Charities in San Francisco Bay Area. Did I get that right? Anyway, I remember that the previous Bishop of California (San Francisco Bay Area), The Rt. Reverend William E. Swing, structured his efforts in the widening activity and effectiveness of Episcopal Charities and in specific of Episcopal Community Services, using Catholic Social Services as a model. Were you part of that effort, which has proved successful for the Episcopal Church and to the credit of The Rt. Reverend William E. Swing?
In truth Catholic Charities is one of a number of Catholic Institutions serving our community. In the Episcopal Community, we’re much the same with our organization and others like Henry Ohloff House Recovery Services, and Good Samaritan Resource Center responding to the needs of different segments of our Community. What we share are common values and common concern for those who are most vulnerable, though our governance and operations remain separate—as in the Catholic Communities.
In San Francisco we have a very vibrant community of faith based organizations responding to the needs of poor people. We all serve the poorest end of the population.  At Episcopal Community Services we work closely with Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and Jewish Vocational Services, and others. These are organizations that do outstanding work in tough financial times. All of these organizations give people the skills to survive with little or no income, but the relationships afforded them are also a real source of hope.
Bishop Andrus and Bishop Swing are huge supporters and leaders in the interfaith community and recognize the value of working within a large tent.
  1. 3.     Two of the people I spoke with on my visit to Canon Kip House on Natoma Street in San Francisco with photographer Terry Peck were also dedicated people. One was Deacon Ken Powell, who attended the School for Deacons which is located in Berkeley, California on the Church Divinity School of the Pacific campus, part of Graduate Theological Union (known as “Holy Hill”). The other, Lolita Kintana, who is Director of Senior Services at Canon Kip House, and a deeply dedicated woman. Two matters: (1) How do these two reflect and offer in their work and presence the kind of understanding that exemplifies the overall work of Canon Kip House. (2) In your estimation, talk to us some about the reason the tone and atmosphere of Canon Kip House clients show fun and happiness. That’s what I found when I visited. What is it about the program that brings out so much enjoyment among the clients?
Lolita Kintanar and Ken Powell really exemplify the values and spirit that we seek in staff at Episcopal Community Services. I remember in 2005, Lolita being honored by a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Chris Daly, as a Woman Making History. Chris said, “Lolita is really a Saint—at least that’s the way she is seen by homeless seniors in San Francisco.” Lolita has incredible concern for the well-being of our seniors and there is no problem that she’s unwilling to approach and almost always solves. Lolita is real.
Ken Powell came to us about three years ago. He’s a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese. His approach to our seniors and homeless clients is deeply caring, gentle and effective. Our Canon Kip Senior Center is like a home to them. Their relationships with one another, with other seniors, are so important.  They are happy because when they come to Canon Kip they find people who really care about them—their housing, their health, their family relationships, and their emotional well-being. Besides that, every day at Canon Kip there is great food and fun activities.
  1. 4.     In present day life there appears to be a real need for service organizations such as yours to work with senior citizens. As the World War II Baby Boom generation ages, it is reported that this need will get greater. Can you talk to us about this need for seniors and homeless in the San Francisco community, and even in the United States?
We’re all growing older. About 20 percent of San Francisco’s population is made up of people 60 and above. And of course, people are living longer. Regrettably, about 12 percent of seniors in San Francisco live on incomes of $10,000 a year or less. So their need is strong, particularly in terms of decent and affordable housing. Isolation is also a huge problem among older people, and particularly so in cities like San Francisco where so many of the younger members of the family have gone to where housing is more affordable in the suburbs. Seniors are also left alone, and if we can build the community around them and bring them in relationships with others, that is a good and needed thing. We try to do that at Episcopal Community Services.
Canon Kip as you know is just one of our service areas.  Episcopal Community Services is the largest provider of housing, shelter and social services for homeless people in our City. At any given time, there are about 7,000 people here with no place to call home. At Episcopal Community Services, we feel privileged to get to know many of these folks, and to help them meet some of their basic needs.

Ken Reggio has been working with homeless people in San Francisco and the East Bay for the past 30 years, formerly  as director of Catholic Charities, and now as director of Episcopal Community Services—San Francisco. 
Note: Interview conducted by telephone with Ken Reggio by Peter Menkin from his home office in Mill Valley, California.


No comments: