Edition 4, May 2019

Welcome to this year’s fourth edition of Pacifica Voice

In this edition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reminds us that May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

PPA members are honored for community service, the Pacifica Resource Center shares stories of aid to our homeless, the second Home For All forum is anticipated, Ellen Hage tells us of one Bay Area resident’s efforts for assisting immigrants at our border, and Deni Asnis concludes with a review of March’s Immigration Night.

Pacifica Voice is eager to receive articles on issues important to our community. Please send them to pacificavoice@outlook.com for consideration.

A Letter to PPA from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Author: Jerry Thomson RN

May is Mental Health Month.  Take a moment to consider the impact mental health conditions have on our society.   According to the National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI) approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Many medical experts rate mental illness among the most debilitating among illnesses. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks mental illness as the biggest health problem in North America, ahead of cardiovascular disease and Cancer. Half of all mental disorders start as early as age 13.  For those affected it can disrupt a person’s education, limit future occupations and interfere with establishing relationships. These mental disorders include anxiety, depression, substance abuse and dependence, bipolar disease, and schizophrenia.

Each illness has its own symptoms, but some common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:

  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
  • Seriously trying to harm or kill oneself or planning to do so
  • Severe mood swings that causes problems in relationships
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
  • Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” called anosognosia)
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress

For those that are suffering from a mental health condition, it is important to emphasize that recovery is real. If you or someone you know has a mental health problem, there are ways to get help. Studies show that most people with mental health problems get better and many recover completely. The first step is getting a diagnosis. Mental health services may be available to you through your health insurance plan.

NAMI believes recovery from a mental illness is a process, beginning with diagnosis and eventually moving into the successful management of a mental health condition. Sustained recovery involves learning about the illness and effective treatment & empowerment with the support of peers and family members. An effective treatment plan may include medication, psychotherapy and peer support groups. A balanced diet, exercise and sleep can also play a big role in your mental health. Meaningful social opportunities, such as local drop in centers or clubhouses, and volunteer activities contribute to overall wellness and mental health recovery.

If you or someone you know needs help then learning all you can about mental health is an important first step. The local NAMI affiliate is located right here in San Mateo. Our web site www.NAMISanMateo.org  as well as our “warm line” (650-638-0800) can help to direct you to local resources.  We also provide classes and support groups (free of charge) for people with mental health conditions as well as for the people that love them.

You are not alone.

Jerry Thompson RN
President of the Board of Directors
NAMI San Mateo County
650 Borel Place, Ste. #130
San Mateo, CA  94402


Author: Suzanne Moore

PPA members were recently honored for service to the community. Pacificans Care awarded Nancy Morrison, Peter Loeb, and Sara Olsen. Rangers at San Pedro Valley County Park planted a tree to honor Monica Olsen.

The Pacificans Care award ceremony was well attended. For those unfamiliar with its mission, Pacificans Care was created so that neighbors can help fellow neighbors in difficult times. For the last 35 years, Pacificans Care, an all-volunteer effort, has supported safety-net institutions like the Pacifica Senior Center, the Pacifica Resource Center, City of Pacifica Child Care Services, and the Pacifica Youth Service Bureau.

The “People Who Care Awards” are given to those volunteers who demonstrate exceptional community service. This year, PPA members Peter Loeb, Nancy Morrison, and Monica Olsen’s niece, Sara Olsen, were all honored.


William Michaelis introduced Nancy and Peter, summarizing that they spent 44 years in social services both professionally and as volunteers:

  • As a social worker, Nancy focused her clinical career on children and families, in Child Protective Services, Bay View Hunters Point Head Start, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Family Service Agency, and as mediator for 20 years in San Mateo County Family Court. Most of us know Nancy from her service on the Pacifica Resource Center board and of course her participation in PPA with Pacifica Social Justice.
  • Peter has spent much of his career as a researcher, consultant, and trainer focusing on substance use, mental health, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS prevention. Peter has served on numerous boards: the Youth Service Bureau, Sanchez Art Center, Pacific Coast Fog Fest (Peter was one of the founders). He was a Pacifica City Council member and mayor; and he was an advocate for many social issues in Pacifica including opposition to Highway 1 widening and support of Fair Rents 4 Pacifica.

Mr. Michaelis concluded his remarks to say, “[They] have not only shared their passion and expertise with the Pacifica Community, they have coupled that with significant financial contributions to many social service organizations. [They] have dedicated their lives to volunteer service.”

Upon accepting the award, Nancy said, “I have loved Pacifica since the day we came here when we took a break from looking for an apartment in San Francisco. We pulled into the parking lot at Rockaway Beach. After walking around a bit, we happened to notice the For Rent sign on what would become our home for the next 44 years. Every day I’m grateful for all the natural beauty around me in Pacifica. I love the ocean, the beautiful beaches, the many gorgeous wooded hills and mountains and the abundant wildflowers. I also love how friendly most Pacificans are.”


This was the first year Pacificans Care honored “Youth Who Care” for their volunteer service. Monica Olsen’s granddaughter, Sara Olsen, was one of two honorees. “My grandmother taught me the importance of being an engaged citizen”, and “I feel truly honored.” Sara felt it is “a small way for me to continue (Monica’s) beautiful legacy.” Sara, in addition to her extracurricular work at Terra Nova, spent time as a teacher at Brighton Preschool, was a lifeguard and swim instructor at Burlingame Country Club, and gave service to Pacifica’s Meals On Wheels. Sara will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall.


Monica requested that a tree be planted in her name in San Pedro Valley County Park. On the first of May, park rangers honored Monica by planting an Ohio Buckeye tree, a California native, near the ranger station. The planting was attended by friends. The spring day couldn’t have been lovelier. Gloria Stofan remarked, “Monica’s spirit lives on.” A photo of Monica’s Tree is posted here.


Author: Suzanne Moore

The Pacifica Resource Center is one of our community’s “safety net institutions” providing resources to our most vulnerable neighbors. The Resource Center has shared these stories – be aware they may have changed names to protect the privacy of those who received help.

The Palmer Family, Max, Liza, and their 6 year-old son, ran into financial difficulties when the father, Max, sustained injuries in an auto accident and was unable to work. Mom – Liza – could not meet the rent payments on her income as a grocery clerk, and the family fell behind. Their property manager was unwilling to accept back rent, so the family was evicted. The Resource Center helped them qualify for a below-market rate apartment, assisted with move-in costs, and provided food and other supports until they achieved financial stability. The Palmer Family is now stably housed.


Willow, a mother of three, and her partner came for help from the PRC. The Resource Center was able to advocate for their re-admission to a shelter, connect the family with Golden Gate Regional Center for assistance with an autistic daughter, and provide support services – groceries, showers, diapers, bus passes, and finally a security deposit – during the 6 months needed to find stable housing. The family is now able to sustain their housing through the full-time work of Willow’s partner, and the autistic daughter is receiving much-needed services for her autism.

Not all of the stories shared by PRC have happy endings. Jimmy, a long-time Pacifican, was working with the Resource Center when he passed away in a tent near a Pacifica beach. This from Anita Rees: “He should have been in a shelter, but he wasn’t and he died alone. It was heartbreaking, but it made me recognize that sometimes PRC’s work is life or death; we need to advocate more and push our partners harder for services we need in Pacifica.”

As Pacifica debates our course in assistance for RV homeless, we need to know who our homeless are and what are real options to solving this crisis. The survey from the Resource Center was limited, but it showed that over 50% of our RV homeless are over age 50, over 50% of RV dwellers had previously been housed in Pacifica but were priced out, and all are working with the exception of one disabled gentleman. The Resource Center needs community support for a Safe Parking Program which could include a waste disposal plan and help with finding sustainable housing. Please contact City Council with your approval of this plan, and do what you can to assist the efforts of the Resource Center.


TUESDAY 5/21/19, 6 – 8:30 PM, Ingrid B. Lacy

Author: Jack Coots

In San Mateo County, new jobs took a sharp but temporary decline during the “dot com bust” of 2002 and the Great Recession of 2008-2010. Since then, the number of new jobs has steadily increased; and from 2010 to 2017 some 83,000 new jobs were created with only 7,100 new housing units built according to the California Employment Development Department and the Census Bureau. The cost of owning or renting housing has dramatically increased, resulting in the displacement of many families who can no longer afford to live here – one third of Pacificans have left since 2010 according to Christian Murdock, Senior Planner, Pacifica Planning Department. Of course, another ongoing effect of this is extended commute times and additional traffic congestion.

To deal with these challenges, led by San Mateo County Supervisors Don Horsley and Warren Slocum, the Home for All Initiative was created to seek out and promote community based solutions to this growing problem. The Home for All Initiative has been endorsed by the City of Pacifica and numerous cities, towns, and agencies around San Mateo County that acknowledge the crucial need for a combined cooperative effort to understand and develop solutions to the crisis.

The City of Pacifica has organized a community-wide conversation and engagement program under a grant awarded by the Home for All Initiative. Their goal is to reach a broad cross-section of Pacifica residents and engage as many as possible in a meaningful dialogue on the course of local housing going forward. Over 100 people attended the first of these conversations on Saturday morning, April 13th, at the Pacifica Community Center. There were two presentations by Christian Murdock followed by group table discussions supported by trained facilitators. Those attending the meeting rated it very positively and especially expressed gratitude for the opportunity to engage in productive civil discussions with their neighbors on the issue.

A second community conversation will be held on Tuesday, May 21st, 6:00 – 8:30 PM at Ingrid B. Lacy Middle School, 1427 Palmetto Avenue. Dinner will be provided, as well as child care for 3 year-olds and above. Go to talkhousing.eventbrite.com to RSVP for this. Learn more: http://cityofpacifica.org/pacificaconnects

The main website: https://homeforallsmc.org  has extensive information and outlines many aspects of the housing dialogue to-date and going forward.

Sister Pimentel and the Humanitarian Respite Center

Author: Ellen Hage

On Monday, April 29th, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and founder of the agency’s Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, spoke at University of San Francisco. The evening before, she was featured on 60 Minutes witnessing and speaking out to bring attention to the human crisis taking place each day on our southern borders.

Sister Pimentel has been working at the Humanitarian Respite Center since 2014, providing aid and comfort and a safe place for immigrant families seeking asylum in the United States. An average of 600-700 people, including families with young children arrive daily, fleeing violence in their countries and seeking refuge and a better life for their families, “holy chaos”, said Sr. Pimentel.

It was a privilege and an honor to be in Sister Norma’s presence and to hear her words. One couldn’t help but think of her as a Mother Teresa for our times. Her message, to do more, more than just words, to take action and to reach out to the immigrants and to help them, to protect the dignity and humanity of our brothers and sisters. “We would do the same to save our children,” said Sister Norma.

Sister Pimentel was invited to the Bay Area by Bay Area Border Relief, a “humanitarian organization serving and advocating for children and families seeking their human right to asylum in the U.S.”

For ways you can participate and make a difference please check out the Bay Area Border Relief flyer.

March Night for Immigration Justice

Author: Deni Asnis

On March 21, an event was held at Oceana High School called A Night for Immigrant Justice. It was co-sponsored by Pacifica Social Justice PSJ and the Oceana High School Stay Woke Club. PSJ members met with the students and faculty advisor, Christopher Korp, of the Stay Woke Club over the course of a few months to cooperatively plan and develop the program. Stay Woke had done a 10 question anonymous survey put out to students at Oceana High School and later to a limited group at Terra Nova High School regarding students’ thoughts, opinions, and information regarding immigration issues. The questions included:

Do you know anyone who is undocumented?

Do you know anyone who worries about citizenship issues? Do you think Pacifica should remain a Sanctuary City?

Do you agree that the United States should accept all asylum seekers?

Do you feel you need more information about this topic?

The March 21 event was attended by about 40 people and covered the issue of immigration justice with much information from a variety of perspectives.Stay Woke student members Shaymaa, Julia and Ronan presented results of the immigration survey. Itzel Calvo from California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance spoke about youth leadership in the immigration movement. Deeg from PSJ reviewed the basics of Pacifica’s Sanctuary City status. Berta

Hernandez addressed immigration issues within a larger social context. Rubi Salazar from the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) educated attendees about immigrant rights with Know Your Rights information and concrete examples of situations that could occur and how to deal with them. YLI has a group that meets at Oceana, and PSJ members have worked with this group as well. This past spring, at the request of YLI, PSJ members presented nformation and materials to the group about the history of Sanctuary City in Pacifca. Oceana High School student and YLI member Sebastian had been planning to present the Know Your Rights section on March 21 but unfortunately was ill. He had participated with other YLI members in presenting a Know Your Rights educational in Half Moon Bay.

After the presentations at the March 21 Night for Immigrant Justice, there was an opportunity for questions and discussion. Student art on immigration was displayed and materials from several groups were available. It was an evening of information, political analysis, and concrete ideas about how to get and stay involved in supporting and defending immigrant rights.