Every Other Month: December 2016

This holiday season, help us strengthen our communities.

Hospitality House is deeply connected to the residents who live here in the Tenderloin, Mid-Market, and Sixth Street Corridor, having called this neighborhood home for almost 50 years. We are working to mitigate the effects of extreme poverty and unrelenting market rate development through six complementary community programs, and we are very proud of their many achievements. Among the highlights of this past year:

  • Our Employment Program hosted several hiring events with committed employers that not only offer concrete job options, but pathways to a truly better life with higher wages and better benefits.  
  • Our Community Building Program sponsored a unique event that brought together more than 125 activists and youth leaders to acknowledge two remarkable leaders, Pam Tau Lee and Stephen Bingham, for a lifetime of civil rights activism, public interest law, and movement building work spanning more than six decades.
  • Our Self-Help Centers expanded wellness activities for individuals from our neighborhoods and also provided them with new opportunities to cultivate a sense of community.
  • Under new leadership, our Shelter Program implemented innovative approaches to socialization including an Animal Assisted Therapy Program where service animals interact with shelter residents, promoting a sense of companionship.
  • Our Community Arts Program continued to promote our core values through art as illustrated by our on-site gallery exhibitions and the incredible mural at Clarion Alley created collaboratively by the CAP staff and artists.

In the coming year, we look forward to building upon our history of success. Your support makes it possible that potentially life-changing moments – for individuals and for the communities we serve – continue to happen every day.  As program participants move to break the cycle of poverty – through the arts, through gainful employment, through civic engagement – the community is strengthened. In a real sense, Hospitality House reflects the best of what community truly means: people coming together to celebrate the possible, to share experiences.  

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Thank you for strengthening individuals and our community through your generous gift to Hospitality House.  Together, we’re making a difference – today and tomorrow!

Meet Troy Henry

After an exhaustive search for a new Director of Programs, Hospitality House welcomes Troy Henry into the role. Troy brings with him over a decade of experience in job development program designs and team building. As the Career Center Director at the Success Center of San Francisco, he cultivated full employment cycles for clients – from outreach and recruitment to career planning and placement.

Before his non-profit career began, Troy worked in the tech field for over a decade. During this time, he struggled with addiction and after a few stints in jail, he was compelled to make a change. “I had had it,” he shares. “Just tired of living the life I was living. Didn’t know what I wanted to do or how I wanted to do it. I just wanted it to stop.” He made a conscious choice to work on himself and found his way into the non-profit world. He started as a resource center clerk moving up the rank to job developer and eventually to a director position for both Goodwill Industries and the Success Center.

While researching non-profit management jobs for a client and friend, he stumbled upon a job posting that would change his course. “I remember saying, ‘Oh let me take a look at Hospitality House’s website.’ And then I saw the position (of Director of Programs) and said, ‘Oh my God, that’s what I want!’”

As he has learned more about Hospitality House’s programs, Troy has been blown away by the kind of work the organization has done to strengthen our communities. “It’s totally thrown me for a loop in the most positive way. I’ve never worked for an organization where the staff is this passionate about what they do.” He attributes this passion to the peer-based staffing model, a cornerstone of the organization’s commitment to community resilience and empowerment. “The (agency’s) policies really represent the community and not the other way around. I’ve never seen core values this strong. All the policies are written with that in mind.”

Troy hopes to make his greatest impact by elevating others in his team of program managers and staff members with his support. From his experiences in technology, he would also like to bring in a “tech factor” to better tell our stories.
“I think Hospitality House is one of the best kept secrets. For me, it’s getting out there and letting people know who we are, what we do, and how we do it.”

Ivan Vera’s Lemon Grove Goodbye

Departing Community Arts Program Manager Ivan Vera admires the new rooftop lemon grove dedicated to him.

Ivan held a water hose close to the soil and watched as each freshly-potted lemon tree received its first drenching. “We need to make sure we come up with a watering schedule.” Ivan thought out loud.

Two months ago, five lemon trees were brought to the rooftop of Hospitality House’s Leavenworth Street site as part of a community project between the agency and the Demonstration Gardens of UC Hastings — a plan that Ivan coordinated with Kasey Asberry, the Sustainability Director at UC Hastings. [Listen to an interview with Kasey below.]

Youth volunteers from the Demonstration Gardens and Hospitality House staff had gathered on the rooftop to help repot each tree. Little did Ivan know, the gathering also served another purpose — the new lemon grove was to be dedicated to him as a farewell gesture of gratitude.

After seven years as the manager of the Community Arts Program (CAP), Ivan felt it was time to begin a new adventure in his life and go after things he’s always yearned to experience. “In the course of my own personal growth, this was a chapter that needed to happen.” The lemon grove dedication was taking place the day before he was leaving San Francisco for the balmy desert of Palm Springs.

Executive Director Jackie Jenks presents a wooden plaque dedicating “Ivan Vera’s Grove”


Ivan was introduced to Hospitality House after helping his close friend, Daniel Hlad – then the Development Director, with the agency’s annual art auction. When Ivan offered feedback about the event, Daniel realized he could be a great fit to manage the CAP.  At the time, Ivan was studying to become a nurse after spending years as an art gallery professional in New York and San Francisco. Daniel convinced him to apply for the position.

Ivan originally ran the program when the CAP studio was located in what is now the Tenderloin Self-Help Center on Leavenworth Street. In 2010, plans to rehabilitate the Leavenworth building moved the CAP to a street-level storefront space on Market Street near 6th Street right below the popular Luggage Store Gallery. Ivan credits this move to the blossoming of the program.  

Ivan pictured in a story on sfgate.com dated Nov. 2013

“(The move) helped us land on the map. It gave us visibility,” Ivan recalls. The entrance of the new studio was flanked by two exhibition windows. “When you have two amazing windows on Market Street, it gave us the visibility of a real gallery. I was able to inspire all the artists to take their professionalism to a much richer level.” This really helped individual artist blossom with the program.

The new location also gave Ivan an opportunity to build relationships within the burgeoning Mid-Market neighborhood, including the Luggage Store gallery and the various tech companies that began to line the once deteriorating street. He embraced the role of ambassador for not only the CAP, but for the entire agency. Increasing the visibility of Hospitality House is one of his proudest achievements.

“We were able to build partnerships and do quite a few different projects.”  The projects were not limited to the making of fine, visual arts. The CAP, along with the agency’s Community Building Program collaborated on various projects including a field trip to the Ai Wei Wei art exhibit on Alcatraz and performance projects with the American Conservatory Theater, the Center for New Music, the Contemporary Music Players, Archive Productions, and Urbanstreet Films. During these projects, Ivan witnessed the power of storytelling and how speaking about personal traumas helped with confronting them. “People were able to not only speak about their trauma, they were able to perform it, share it, and turn it around.”



Ivan is extremely thankful for his years at Hospitality House and attributes the integrity of the leadership for sharpening his focus and learning to say “thank you, but no thank you” to certain projects that did not necessarily align with the mission of the agency. His experience with the CAP also restored his faith in art. After working several years in some of the top New York galleries, he grew tired of the commodification of art.

“I was able to go to the opposite end of the spectrum where art was being created because it’s inherent, it’s a human right, it’s the most basic way of expressing. Art is free. Art is something that’s for everybody.”


The Demonstration Gardens: A Conversation with Kasey Asberry

Kasey Asberry, LRCP Sustainability Director for UC Hastings and founder of the Demonstration Gardens in the Tenderloin

The Demonstration Gardens is an environmental literacy and advocacy program that began in 2008-09. Located between Larkin and Hyde on Golden Gate Avenue as part of the UC Hastings of Law campus, the gardens are sunken outdoors and span 11,000 square feet. There are also indoor studios where visitors and participants of the program can further explore the natural world through expressive arts. Although it is not a public park, the gardens do have open hours to the public where anyone can drop-in and participate in the programming free-of-charge.

“We have been developing a series of projects that expand the green-ness of our neighborhood,“ said Kasey Asberry, the Demonstration Gardens’ Director. “We’re working to cultivate community around gardening by providing skills and support, and by accompanying people who want to make their neighborhood greener.”

The 50 Lemon Trees Project

After a donor provided the project with fifty lemon trees, Kasey plans to distribute them in groups of five to various community organizations. The vision is to create small orchards or lemon groves throughout the neighborhood. So far, fifteen trees have been placed in communities including the Hamilton Family Center, the Celebration Gardens at Boedekker Park, and as mentioned earlier, the rooftop of Hospitality House’s site on Leavenworth Street.

“One thing that I’m enjoying the most about this project, an unexpected consequence, is that as we build the community around the individual orchards, the community around all of the orchards is growing. I’ve been seeing this emergence of people wanting to know each other and wanting to work together. We don’t plant one lemon tree, because fruit trees need each other. Humans are the same way.”

Program Managers David McKinley (left) and Joe Wilson (center) get down and dirty with a Meyer Lemon tree.

[Listen to the full interview with Kasey Asberry below. For more information on the Demonstration Gardens, check out their website at www.demonstration-gardens.org. Don’t miss their birthday celebration on January 6, 2017, 4:30PM to 8PM at 333 Golden Gate Avenue.]

Interviewed by Allan S. Manalo, Director of Development for Hospitality House


Hospitality House takes action on issues that impact our community! Find out how you can, too, by keeping your ear to the ground.

Know Your Rights

Needless to say, 2016 has been an eventful year for everyone.  An election gone awry has induced fear and anxiety among our immigrant communities, due to the anti-immigration and xenophobic rhetoric of the nation’s incoming administration.

Shelter Program Manager Jose Bernal

“Right after the election, there was a lot of fear and there still is about people not knowing what’s going to happen next, in the community and particularly in the Tenderloin,” said Jose Bernal, Hospitality House’s Shelter Program Manager, “I felt it. I heard it. I saw it. I walk into a restaurant; I walk into a laundromat. People are just afraid. They’re scared. A lot of family members of mine ask me questions like, ‘What’s going to happen?’”

Jose felt a need to help ease the fears by bringing together the nearby immigrant community and somehow arming them with knowledge of their constitutional rights. He discussed the idea with Hospitality House’s Deputy Director of Programs, Joe Wilson. They came up with an impromptu event, “Know Your Rights,” which would offer a platform for residents to voice their anxieties. The event would also feature an immigration attorney who could answer questions about basic immigrant rights.

Search for Counsel
Jose immediately made phone calls looking for an attorney who would speak pro-bono at a community event on short notice. He called a prominent lecturer from Stanford University he knew. Unfortunately, since the event was scheduled so close to the Thanksgiving holiday, most of his contacts were on vacation. He was not discouraged.

“One of the most memorable things that I’ll remember is when I thought we weren’t going to have an attorney. So I said (to myself) that maybe we’ll just have a community discussion. The goal was to  show the community that we’re here for you. We’re in this together, in solidarity. I wanted to make sure people feel they are not alone,” explained Jose. “But then Joe said, ‘I got your back, Jose. I’ll get you an attorney!’”

Attorney Amanda Alvarado Ford of La Raza Centro Legal informs community members about their immigrant rights.

Joe called Amanda Alvarado Ford, an attorney who has worked  pro bono with the Immigration Unit of La Raza Centro Legal since 2012. She obliged. Joe also reached out to his vast network of community organizations like La Voz to spread the word about the event.

Knocking at the door
The event was scheduled to take place at 290 Turk Street  after regular operating hours when Hospitality House’s programs were normally closed. Jose wondered if the short notice or perhaps,  the bustle of the holidays, would deter people from attending.

“I was wondering if people were going to show up, but we had mothers knocking on our door, literally. I thought to myself, there is a need!” Before long, the room was packed with people from various communities, educating themselves about their rights as immigrants and asking questions to allay fears.

Mothers from the neighborhood  brought their children, which prompted staff to create a pop-up daycare center in the backroom. About a half-dozen children played games and drew pictures with crayons as their parents listen to the lecture in the front room.

“I appreciate the community that came out. People we wanted to reach were there, people who don’t otherwise access our service,” Jose beamed.  “It’s inspiring to see folks come out.”
For more information on the next “Know Your Rights” event hosted by PODER on January 9th at 290 Turk Street, please contact Jose Bernal at jbernal@hospitalityhouse.org