First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley
2407 Dana Street at Haste Street
Berkeley, CA 94704-2207
Tuesdays, 7:30 – 9:00 PM
SHARE is a one-of-a-kind weekly forum for members of the homeless population to educate and reach out to their community. Through discussion meetings, field trips and get-togethers, SHARE provides an opportunity for the Berkeley homeless to make themselves heard in a way unlike any other, and provides an opportunity for Berkeley students to connect on a personal level with a population that they usually pass by on the streets without a second glance. Led by trained student facilitators, SHARE allows Suitcase Clinic clients and volunteers to interact and voice their opinions in a unique way through presentations, movies, and political action.
The core of SHARE comes in the form of a weekly discussion group, which discusses any and all topics that are of interest or concern to the homeless who attend the meetings. Sometimes the meetings act simply as an opportunity for members to vent frustrations; other times, however, they develop into successful full-fledged community activist projects. For example, several years ago, after voicing frustration with the lack of public showers, clients worked with Berkeley students on a successful campaign to have public showers installed in Berkeley. More recently, SHARE successfully campaigned to have daytime storage lockers installed in the city of Berkeley.
During the weekly SHARE meetings, participants have the opportunity to discuss current events, seek advice on social and legal issues, and even contribute to community activist projects. Above all, SHARE is a place where the homeless population, along with students and community members, can unite in peace and solidarity. Through the discussion of issues, SHARE has become a safe place for all to discuss opinions and build community. The SHARE discussion group is completely open to the public, please join us!
Prior to September 1994, the Suitcase Clinic passively provided health education services by keeping a table with pamphlets on STD’s and other sexual health issues. A caseworker would sit by the table to answer questions and pass out condoms. Between the months of April and August of 1994, the Suitcase Clinic organizers discussed the need to provide clients with a program that focused primarily on disease prevention through education. It was during this time that the idea for a health education discussion group was formed. The discussion group was geared towards providing an open, friendly and informative place for homeless, formerly homeless and uninsured people to share their experiences with others in similar situations. Referrals could also be made in the discussion group.
The first group discussion was held on September 27, 1994. The volunteer discussion leaders included two Berkeley Community Health Workers, a graduate student from the school of Social Welfare, and an Integrative Biology undergraduate. The meetings were held twice a month. Starting in January of 1995, the group discussions became a weekly event. Two health education coordinators were selected, and they began recruiting people to join in the discussion group. They accomplished this by personally inviting people at Trinity United Methodist Church of Berkeley’s Quarter Meal, along with people who were waiting for services at Suitcase Clinic. The coordinators kept referral resource information in the room during group discussion and referred people to various resources as needed. A health question was posed at the end of each session and a brief discussion would follow. Copies of UC Berkeley’s Wellness Letter were provided to group members and refreshments were served at each meeting.
In January of 1996, two new health education coordinators and two assistant coordinators were appointed. Discussions continued as before, but a new mission was implemented. The focus of the group is currently geared more towards self-empowerment through problem resolution and community involvement, and is no longer aimed at educating clients about specific health issues. Based upon noting issues which regularly upset or interest the clients, the coordinators and assistant coordinators select a topic every week for the group to discuss. Instead of using the discussion time for clients to complain extensively about a particular problem, the group facilitators try to pose questions to the group so that group members begin to think of solutions to their problems.
The group discussion allots the second half of each discussion to that particular week’s topic. The first half of each meeting is used for participants to introduce themselves to each other and to inform each other about upcoming events or to talk about things they may have done to resolve an issue from a previous meeting. The format of the discussion is as follows:
- Introductions and a participant check-in;
- Topic of the week.
Refreshments are still served during each meeting and recruitment tactics are the same as before (Quarter Meal and Suitcase Clinic waiting area). There are some members of group discussion who have attended regularly for the past two years. In May 1996, discussion group members decided to name the group: SHARE (Searching How to Achieve Respect and Empowerment).
The mission of SHARE is to facilitate communication between homeless and low-income participants and students to help group participants find resolutions to current problems. We also strive to involve participants in community and policy issues to enhance people’s self-worth and to address the root causes of social problems. By creating an atmosphere where individuals feel they have a voice and the power to do something constructive about their situations, we hope the group discussions will serve as a stepping stone for addressing personal and community issues.
SHARE’s objectives include:
- The establishment of trustworthy relationships between participants and group facilitators;
- The active recruitment of homeless people who may feel disenfranchised and disempowered;
- The selection of weekly topics that pertain to the participants needs and interests;
- The organization of discussions in such a way that group participation is always encouraged and the emphasis of discussions is on how to change a given situation;
- The eventual leadership and group facilitation from the participants rather than from the student facilitators;
- Providing encouragement to participants to get involved with the management and operations of the Suitcase Clinic.