- Unitarian Universalism Connection
Thousands of queer (LGBTQI) refugees are part of the current flow of immigrants fleeing persecution and strife-torn regions of the world. They flee to save their lives that are in jeopardy because of harsh laws and social customs in many African and Middle Eastern countries and nations like Russia. Queer people face the death penalty in 7 countries and imprisonment in 78. Some are able to get refugee status in the US or come as asylum seekers.
The Guardian Group is helping to resettle these traumatized young women and men who manage to get to the US. Our social justice project provides them with lifesaving direct-involvement assistance. We provide acutely needed financial backing not covered by governmental stipends, including housing, emergency food, clothing, phone cards, and bus passes. More importantly, our volunteers listen to their stories and our social support and friendship helps them overcome despondency. We assist them in navigating through the bureaucratic process of finding lawyers, medical and mental health providers, job training, employment, and social services. We help our clients until they become self sufficient and adjusted to life in their new country.
You should care about this effort because without the work of the Guardian Group, an extremely crucial social justice need would remain unmet. LGBTQI refugees/asylum seekers fleeing their countries due to persecution and hatred who are settling in the San Francisco Bay Area would find themselves in life-threatening situations. They would often be homeless; lack financial aid for the necessities of life; have to face daunting government bureaucracies on their own; be unable to adjust to a culture very foreign to them, and most of all, lack social support and friendship that could begin to help them recover from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from the horrors that they faced as LGBTQI people in their home countries.
Your support will help us aid our clients until they transition to financial and emotional independence, when they are working and/or attending college.
Our general timeline is outlined in our Guardian Group Policies. The social and emotional connections made with clients may last indefinitely. However, Guardian Group financial support generally ends after 12 to 18 months. The Guardians are sensitive to long term clients who have temporary financial reversals or extraordinary, unavoidable expenses after the normal support period. However, after 18 months, one‐time assistance will be given, only if the support is deemed appropriate.
The Guardian Group Steering Committee consists of a retired medical social worker and liaison for the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Association’s United Nations Office (UU-UNO) chapter; retired minister at First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco; board president of Live Oak UU Fellowship and volunteer with Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay (JFCS East Bay); retired planner with grant writing experience; and board member First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco.
All funds raised by this campaign will be used to support our clients. We use these funds for food, clothing, cell phone contracts, transit passes, medical emergencies, and any other client needs that our Steering Committee feels are necessary to fund.
Our experience shows that we need approximately $4,500 per year per client. This does not include housing, which we endeavor to provide by actively soliciting the generosity of individuals (including our own GG volunteers & UUSF congregants). Asylum seekers do not receive any government financial support and cannot legally work for the first six months after their asylum request is filed. Therefore, they are a much greater financial responsibility to the Guardians than refugees. The typical time for an asylum decision to be made is 12 to 18 months. Our experience is that expenses are highest for new clients and taper off until they attain financially self-sufficiency in a year or so. In the last two years, we received $31,000 from two Unitarian Universalist Fund for Social Responsibility grants, $10,000 from the UUSF Society for Community Work (SCW), and $2,500 from the UUSF Hinckley Fund, $7,000 from donations from our congregation. Major in-kind volunteer contributions are estimated to be $106,000 for the last fiscal year. If we fall short in raising funds, we will have to cut back on the financial support to our existing clients and/or not be able to take on additional clients who are desperately in need of our services.
We will sustain our project by continuing to actively solicit donations and continue to apply for grants from a variety of sources.
We will share what we learn by providing copies of our Guardian Group Policies to any other groups that are interested in undertaking similar work. We have and will continue to contact other UU congregations to interest them in forming Guardian Groups. We have written an article for the UU Pacific Central District newsletter that included contacts for requesting a Guardian Group representative to visit other UU churches to lead a service or forum to talk about our work. We have visited seven UU congregations to lead services and/or make presentations about the Guardian Group in an effort to proactively promote our innovative model to encourage the formation of Guardian Groups providing resettlement assistance at other UU congregations.
Other organizations such as the JFCS East Bay, Organization for Refugee, Asylum, and Migration (ORAM), LGBT Freedom and Asylum Network (LGBT-FAN), and our funders have told us and others that our project is important. Several other project endorsements from leaders in the national Unitarian Universalist Community are detailed in the Unitarian Universalist Connection section below.
We will continue to work with the JFCS East Bay, which has a LGBTQI Refugee Program. Most of our clients have been referred to the Guardian Group by JFCS East Bay.