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Project Connect pitcher tosses
from the heart

Deborah Davidson
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

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 locked eyes.

"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 interjected.

"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 know.

"Uh huh," he deflated, having hoped to quit work among the relaxing.

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 p.m.

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 years ago.

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 Carlisi.

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 tallied:

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

Legal: 160

DMV ID Services: 165

Wheelchairs repaired: 12

Massages: 53

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.




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