Pride Month Spotlight: San Francisco Community Health Center
In celebration of Pride Month, the Asian Pacific Fund is shining the spotlight on some of our Asian and Pacific Islander (API) LGBTQIA+ community-serving partners. This week, we joined Lance Toma (He/Him), Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco Community Health Center (SFCHC), to learn more about their work to provide high-quality healthcare and advance health, wellness, and equality.
How did SFCHC start?
San Francisco Community Health Center (SFCHC) has had a long journey since our founding in 1987. Our predecessor organizations Asian AIDS Project and GAPA Community HIV Project’s Living Well Project grew out of the response to the 1980s AIDS crisis, specifically supporting those in the API community impacted by the epidemic. In 1996, those two organizations merged to become the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center. Since then, we have worked hard to remain rooted in API communities while welcoming anyone who needs our services. In 2015, we became a federally qualified health center, allowing us to increase our clinical capacity and serve more of our community. We officially rebranded as “San Francisco Community Health Center” in 2018 to fully encompass all the programs and services we offer and reflect the diverse communities that we serve.
What programs and services does SFCHC provide to specifically support the LGBTQIA+ community?
As a fully-licensed, federally qualified health center, SFCHC serves people of color and the LGBTQ community with a range of medical services – from primary care and dental to behavioral health services and HIV and STD testing. We also have very specific programs that support the transgender and queer members of our community.
Trans Thrive encompasses all of our Trans-focused programs and services and aims to create safe spaces, events, and services for the entire trans/GNC community – from case management and medical services to mental health and substance use support, to social groups and arts and cultural events, to a drop-in center. We recently opened a new stand-alone facility that houses the entirety of our Trans Thrive programs, run by and for the community.
We also have a program called The Connection, which was established in 2012 and built upon our legacy of serving the API LGBTQ community. The Connection supports API Queer men to come together and build a safe, empowering community. The Connection has provided a safe space for API MSMs, to learn and improve their sexual health, discuss the meaning of being Queer and API in the community as well as be a leader to their peers. We aim to create a space to foster friendship and host social and health activities to improve health and wellness.
What has been the most interesting or challenging aspect of SFCHC’s work?
Our transformation from a grassroots API HIV and AIDS service organization has been incredibly inspiring. Throughout the 80s and 90s, we needed to fight for funding year after year so that culturally and linguistically competent HIV services for the API community were maintained and expanded upon. Policy and advocacy work became part of the DNA of our organization because we could never take anything for granted. Decades later, that we have evolved to be a comprehensive, one-stop shop for primary medical care, mental health and substance use counseling, dental care, and other social services for the most marginalized and stigmatized communities in San Francisco is a testament to our grit and tenacity and all the skills that we learned as a scrappy HIV organization founded by and for the API community.
What’s the most important or gratifying thing about working for the LGBTQIA+ community?
Since 2007, we have run our Trans Thrive program that serves all Trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals. Our new facility is a powerhouse and beacon for the community nationally; we are located in a city that celebrates the contributions and power of the Trans community. And, in this specific moment when attacks on the LGBTQ community are laser-focused on dehumanizing the Trans community, we at SFCHC are doing everything we can to counter these hateful messages and disgusting and harmful legislative actions happening across the country. SFCHC plays a critical policy and advocacy role locally and nationally to do everything we can to engage in all efforts to protect and support the Trans community everywhere. This, alongside our direct programs and services, is some of the most important and gratifying work that we do on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community.
How can people get involved and support SFCHC’s work? Are there any volunteer opportunities?
We have a number of opportunities for the community to be involved. Some of our annual events that we either lead or support include the API Stage @ SF Pride, Trans March, Transgender Day of Visibility, Transgender Day of Remembrance, among many others. Please visit our website (sfcommunityhealth.org) to learn about all of our programs and services. If anyone is interested in any specific area, feel free to reach out directly to the team members listed. For general inquiries about volunteer or internship opportunities, feel free to contact Khilynn Fowler, Community Relations Manager (email@example.com).
The Asian Pacific Fund is a proud partner and supporter of the San Francisco Community Health Center and their work to foster resilience, strength, connection, health, and wellness for all communities.
Learn more about SFCHC’s work and how to get involved by visiting their website: https://sfcommunityhealth.org/.