Project Connect pitcher tosses
from the heart
By Pat Murphy
February 14, 2006
This woman mattered, one could see it and she insisted it be
so, standing out even among 80 of Mayor Newsom's loyalist marchers
in the Chinese New Year Parade.
They had gathered in North Beach's Kells saloon after the parade
as the mayor relaxed squat with a no-salt Margarita.
Even in that crowd of heavy pitchers, the eye kept returning
to the professionally deported, maturely attractive Deborah Davidson.
She caught the glance and barreled a path to pigeonhole for better
coverage of Project Homeless Connect.
"You remember me? You gave me a cigarette," Davidson
"Of course I..." this writer wasn't permitted to finish,
although he still took her to be a mid to top-level city staffer
with shared curse of being a smoker.
She expanded on the greatness of Project
Homeless Connect and the unblemished goodness of Gavin Newsom
for thinking it up.
"Yes I'm familiar with Project Connect," the writer
"I've been to all of them and have said often that Gavin
is as good as it gets."
Quickly blurted, it did not suffice.
There was more to know, and more to feel, she let the writer
"Uh huh," he deflated, having hoped to quit work among
But she knew and felt of such things through ownership, as first-person
guide to her own homeless chapter.
Davidson is one of Project Connect's thousands of volunteers
who worked her up, way up from the bottom, the very bottom of
life on the streets.
She is not a City employee.
She will be there again this Thursday for the ninth Project Connect
outreach to the homeless, and encourages new
volunteers to participate.
Street Outreach Training will be held today from 4:00 p.m. to
5:00 p.m. in City Hall Room 201.
On Wednesday, Discharge Training will be given in Bill Graham
Auditorium, located at 99 Grove Street, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00
Also on Wednesday, Client Support and Triage Training runs from
3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Bill Graham Auditorium.
A native of New York City, Davidson became homeless after resources
went to caring for a paralyzed and brain-damaged brother, and
then her breast cancer medical costs.
She quickly traveled to various cities looking for best housing
possibilities, and landed permanently in San Francisco some three
A quick woman, she hurried herself to Care Not Cash campaign
headquarters as its headline kept referring to homelessness.
Davidson liked the concept, she liked Newsom, and campaign worker
Patricia Carlisi really like Davidson.
Patricia Carlisi, now assistant to Dan Homsey
who runs the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services,
relies on friend Deborah Davidson for setting up special projects
in between service to Project Homeless Connect.
"I walked into the campaign and met Patty Carlisi and told
her I wanted to do volunteer work," recalled Davidson.
"I liked Gavin Newsom and what he stood for, and Patty gave
me a chance to do volunteer work and I've been helping ever since."
Currently Davidson traverses the city to convince the homeless
help is available.
Her personal story and empathy win trust, she smiled.
"I go out on the street with someone and we get the homeless
people to services in the Bill Graham Auditorium.
"We go out in different neighborhoods and get them off the
street and into housing if we can do it."
Carlisi instantly cared about Davidson when they first met.
"I met Debbie ironically at the campaign - she came in very
upset that she hadn't been able to take a shower for three or
four days," Carlisi recalled.
Carlisi got her cleaned up, took her to Ross Dress for Less for
clothing, and got Davidson involved in the Care Not Cash campaign.
"I just adopted one person in my mind and that was Debbie,
and I just decided to help her with getting a doctor, getting
her to a women's SRO, going to Minor Miracle getting a makeover...we're
working on a dentist, she's going to school now," continued
Davidson is now a resident of Mary Elizabeth Inn, a nonprofit,
multi-cultural residence for women over 18, and attends City College
with hope of becoming a City private investigator.
Even so, she expects her commitment to Project Connect be neverending
as she watches its model becomes adopted by more American cities.
Statistics have already drawn other cities to launch their own
Project Connect including Miami, Chicago, Knoxville, Denver, St
Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, Portland, San Jose, West Hollywood,
Philadelphia, San Juan, Indianapolis, Quincy, Pasadena and Chattanooga.
Statistics announced from the last Project Connect outreach
Total clients served: 1542
Total clients seen at Medical: 301
Flu Shots administered: 261
HIV Testing: 12
Behavioral Health (Detox, maintenance, substance abuse residential
treatment and mental health): 204
Vision Care / Glasses: 235
County Adult Assistance Programs: 188 clients were screened and
many offered an orientation and intake appointments
SSI Advocacy: 133
Employment Services: 66
DMV ID Services: 165
Wheelchairs repaired: 12
Foot Washing: 47
Free Phone calls: 550+
FedEx Cards and holiday messages to loved ones: 120+
1285 client meals were served.
927 people received 11,638 pounds of food and other give-aways
at exit from PHC.
83 who were sleeping on the street Wednesday night were indoors
Thursday night - 63 in shelters, 20 in stabilization rooms.
"I'm a caring individual and they realize that, and they
love it when Gavin sends people out, because when you care it
makes a difference," concluded Davidson.