Cityteam International is a local faith-based nonprofit that offers a range of services to individuals facing poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse.
Established in 1957, Cityteam serves the San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose communities with a men’s live-in recovery program, a learning center, limited transitional housing, and a dining hall. Further services offered include foot care, showers, and clothing.
The programs offered by Cityteam provide an array of benefits to those seeking help, according to Director Eric Venable. These include mentorship, skill-building, ownership, a sense of normality, one-on-one attention, autonomy and a sense of control.
In early December 2016, a flood uprooted the Cityteam facility at 164 6th St. in San Francisco. The severity of the flood caused the facility to be completely gutted, but Cityteam continued to serve the homeless despite the facilities closure.
In early June, the facility reopened. In the intervening period, Cityteam San Francisco Staff set up operations predominantly in their Oakland and San Jose facilities.
“Cityteam is a great blessing to our folks here on 6th Street, and we're extremely motivated to see them get back on their feet ASAP,” Pastor Jonathan Wilkins of City Life Church said. “Our community desperately needs them!”
Local churches — such as City Life and Outpost Church — have an enduring relationship with Cityteam. Wilkins said that Cityteam also has an enduring relationship with the community. Along with Cityteam, others enrolled in the nonprofit's services remained resilient through all the difficulties surrounding the flood.
According to Venable, the normal attrition rate for individuals in the live-in recovery program is greater than it was during the time the facility in San Francisco was closed.
Venable credits a strong resilience in the face of adversity to each individual seeking assistance during that time. Only one person ended up dropping out of the live-in recovery program.
Venable said that during this exodus Cityteam was limited in what it could offer, since its facility was closed. For example, meals had normally been served Tuesday through Friday at 6 p.m., on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and on Sunday at 7 a.m. in their dining hall.
Volunteers from neighboring churches, along with other Cityteam partners, were enlisted to carry on the tradition of providing sack lunches on Saturdays to the area’s homeless, sick, and isolated, according to Jonathan
Zingkhai, the Recovery and Rescue program manager. He said many of these individuals are housed in hotels and single-occupancy units in the neighborhood.
Open to 17 men at a time, individuals seeking assistance in the 12-step live-in recovery program must show up clean and sober to apply, according to Venable. The program is highly structured and faith-based, following a model developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, Venable said.
At the time of the flood, ten senior residents were in the final stages of their recovery. Six individuals stayed in Oakland to complete the program’s job search requirement, while the others headed to the Santa Cruz Mountains where Cityteam maintains a vast 178-acre camp retreat — Camp May Mac.
This move presented a new set of challenges and opportunities. Instead of participating and/or completing the program in the city, residents were camping out in cabins for the next six weeks before resettling in Oakland or San Jose, according to Zingkhai.
Five individuals managed to stay in San Francisco with the help of partners, such as Outpost Church. Despite the change in scenery, the program these 19 individuals signed up for remained the same.
Recent live-in recovery graduate Eric Norton, originally from Tennessee, said that he had no trouble adjusting to the new environment. He remarked that those from San Francisco had a more challenging time, but that everyone pulled together.
Clients learn responsibility, leadership, and stewardship by working at the mission in the live-in recovery program. Those going through the program are tasked with maintaining the facility, along with daily chores. Senior residents help mentor new individuals entering the program, according to Norton.
After completing the program, aftercare is offered, which continues to provide a structure for graduates. In this, supportive life-skills coaching are emphasized, helping clients to avoid relapsing. Career enhancement classes are designed to help men find employment after completion of the program.
Those enrolled in the live-in recovery program stay for either nine months or for a full year. In 2017, Zingkhai said there have been two graduations, including the nonprofit’s 30th. Ten individuals graduated on February 18, and five graduated on June 17.
These graduations took place at a partner institution — City Life Church. The next graduation is slated for September. Zingkhai said City Life Church also helps with special events, in addition to providing teachers for some of the classes and mentoring programs.
Residents such as Norton had just decorated for the annual Christmas dinner for the homeless before the December flooding. Norton recalled the morning of the flood.
Early in the morning, Norton said he was awakened by water hitting his window. His room was right underneath where a fire-hydrant — apparently struck by a vehicle — was spewing.
Norton said that within minutes, the situation became chaotic. He said that House Manager Doug Hopkins reassured the nervous residents that everyone would be taken care of as the facility continued to flood. Norton said that everyone realized that they wouldn’t be able to stay.
Fortunately for Cityteam’s 26 residents, neighboring Outpost Church opened its doors, offering a place for them to hang out until they were relocated to the Cityteam facility in Oakland. They stayed in Oakland for the first week after the flood before being relocated.
Norton is currently pursuing his certification to become a drug and alcohol counselor. In so doing, he plans to work as a Cityteam intern for six months. His goal is to help fellow veterans. He had moved to San Francisco in 2010 after completing his military service.
Similar to others, in the months leading up to his graduation, Norton looked to the future, attending job fairs and conducting job searches. He said that the program helped him to not only get back on his feet, but that it reestablished the skills necessary for him to help himself. Now he is set to help others.
Graduates from the live-in recovery program, as well as the chronically homeless, may be eligible for transitional shelter at the facility. Space is limited to 10 men at the transitional shelter. Clients must be enrolled in school, working or looking for a job in order to qualify.
Cityteam relies primarily on donations, fundraisers, and partnerships to support its initiatives, according to Zingkhai. One recent fundraiser included the One Mile Bang Run in Los Gatos in late June. Zingkhai said race entry fees directly helped Cityteam San Jose to fulfill its mission in all its programs.
More information about Cityteam can be found on its website, https://www.cityteam.org/san-francisco/.