H&I at Friendship House

We’re all one nation — it’s us against the disease

Audio by Navarre

by Guru P

A while after moving back to San Francisco I realized I hadn’t had an H&I commitment (service in Hospitals and Institutions) for a spell. I finally attended the monthly orientation at the Mission Fellowship at 2900 – 24th Street. The Mission District commitment at Friendship House got my attention. This thriving institution has been serving the American Indian community since the 1960s. The residential program’s mission is to strengthen community and it hosts several weekly meetings.

It’s been a great Saturday H&I commitment over the last year. Thanks to trusted servants with skills, we were able to start hosting virtual meetings after the shelter in place order (with a private Zoom link for residents). It’s pretty incredible how connected we all still feel despite not being in the same physical space.

Despite recent challenges, the dedication of the folks at Friendship House is inspiring. As a non-indigenous person of color myself, I am proud to be able to walk together with them on the road of recovery. One graduate said, “At the Friendship House, we’re all one nation.” It’s us against the disease.

People at this program are hard pressed, have had very tough circumstances, been separated from their families, or spent time in institutions. This is really a “last house on the block” situation for folks. But people in our meetings are proud of their sobriety, stay hopeful, and look forward to the future. I was blessed in early sobriety to have had a couple of American Indian mentors in Alcoholics Anonymous who invited me to participate in ceremonies at their homes. When walking through the front gates to enter Friendship House, it is not uncommon to find a ceremony happening. Traditional healing concepts are central to the program. I’m lucky to have found a sponsee here. We’re unable to meet in person right now, so we connect over the phone about once a week to catch up and read out of the Big Book.

It hasn’t always been easy to coordinate during shelter in place. Residents are not able to have personal cell phones and there’s one landline available. My sponsee shares about his packed schedule and I learn more about his spirituality. We chat about our ups and downs in life, mistakes we’ve made. It’s really cool to see how the program of A.A. is compatible with any type of belief system.

I’ve always been astonished by the contrast between the A.A. World Services 2014 membership survey and what I see anecdotally in San Francisco when it comes to diversity in the rooms. This does not preclude us within the fellowship from being mindful and considering ways to extend a hand to still-suffering alcoholics in communities of color (not a new concept, given the conference-approved literature for African American, American Indian and LGBTQ alcoholics). Recently, the neighborhood around Julian Street was designated as the American Indian Cultural District. The legislation was adopted by the City this past March. Friendship House is one of the cornerstones of the new district, and the diversity of its meetings helps make outreach effective for more newcomers.

A.A. is compatible with any type of belief system
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