A vibrant group of fellow travelers, many desolated by sexual
exploitation from birth, Friday staked their presence in the fullness
of free life.
They graduated from adult lives of commercial sexual exploitation,
through nurture of the SAGE Project, as wall-to-wall joy vanquished
Forever, they know it's possible to stand valid and safe, an
entitlement SAGE founder Norma Hotaling cried through the silence
for many years.
Gathered in Calvary Presbyterian Church, SAGE convened family
and friends to honor latest graduates, and to celebrate six year
anniversary the SAGE Project.
Graduate Theresa Delacruz expressed amazement
at healing power of SAGE
The project is built around safe residential housing
where women, men, and transgenders feel secure in a "non-shameful
space (to) address whatever internal issues they have,"
explained Norma Hotaling, SAGE founder.
Hotaling herself walked away from a 21-year heroin
addiction and prostitution, just as quickly lobbying anyone
who would consider her vision for rehabilitation.
It comprised residential stabilization, with clients
building a support system, learning to soothe themselves in
other ways than substances, bonding with peers, and reframing
public naming of prostitution to Commercially Sexually Exploited
Her efforts began to take off in the early 90s,
after meeting with a recently appointed city supervisor introducing
himself as Gavin Newsom.
Newsom, he said Friday, came to the meeting with
entrenched beliefs about prostitution which did not parallel
"You see all those people out there who come
here asking me to help them?" Newsom recalled his directness
Nonetheless, the District 2 supervisor agreed
to a subsequent meeting with Hotaling clients.
"Years ago, Norma gave me the gift of meeting
with ten women.
"I lasted about ten minutes before Norma
had to pull out the kleenex. I had no idea. I never understood
what I increasingly understand.
"Within 20 minutes of attending that meeting,
I completely changed my mind," said the mayor.
"And now we see Norma appearing on the Oprah
show. I've never been on Oprah," Newsom hinted a pouted
"I read Norma's been honored by the JFK School
of business -- and Peter Drucker! I've never been honored by
the JFK School of Business...or Peter Drucker!
"Norma created the model now used across
the nation, and world. South Korea is a nation using that model,
and funding it with tens of millions of dollars.
"I am profoundly, profoundly grateful to
the work of SAGE.
For her part, Hotaling acknowledged Newsom with
"We're sitting here today because of Mayor
Newsom," stated Hotaling.
"I love this guy," she emoted.
"Gavin and I have had some magical moments.
The magic came when I walked into his office as a new supervisor.
I told him my rent was going up, and I asked if he would beat
up my landlord.
"He said, 'What do you want?'
"'I want to own the building.'
"Finally he said, 'I will help you.'
"Gavin works from purpose, and we joined
a partnership at that moment," recalled Hotaling.
In 1999, SAGE officially was born, taking up leased
office space at 1385 Mission Street, giving form to rehabilitation
Today, assuring client safe place is shielded
from thoughtless stares, SAGE now owns the building, thanks
to community support and the receptive Bank of the West.
The Good Banker, with Juvenile Probation Department Director
Bill Siffermann at right
In years not far gone, CSE people were murdered,
dumped in dumpsters, and no one cared, Hotaling pointed out.
Now 54-years-old, some six years after she fully
got off the streets, Hotaling sets the world model for "holistic
health systems that address all their issues no matter how terrible
Her sense of leadership was captured in a reading
"Leaders are called to stand in that lonely
place between the no longer and the not yet, and intentionally
make decisions that will bind, forge, move, and create history.
"We are not called to be popular. We are
not called to be safe. We are not called to follow. We are the
ones called to take risks. We are the ones called to change
attitudes; to risk displeasures. We are the ones called to gamble
our lives for a better world."
Norma Hotaling, mother of SAFE founder Norma Hotaling
Graduate Marian Newhouse