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    Carving a Path Towards a More Compassionate Future

    By Kaushik Roy–

    Forty-three years ago, Shanti was founded on the principle that every person deserves compassion, connection, and human dignity. From our earliest days, Shanti called on the community to join in being the “difference between zero and one”: the difference between having one person by your side through life’s most difficult challenges or facing those challenges alone. As the landscape of our city changes, we remain at the forefront of ensuring that our most vulnerable neighbors are not forgotten in the process.

    In the beginning, Shanti emerged from the halls of the UCSF cancer ward to become one of the world’s very first community based organizations helping to support those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS during the nightmarish early days of the epidemic. In 2001, we increased services to include women diagnosed with breast cancer, and in 2015 we expanded that program to serve women facing any cancer diagnosis. Two years ago, we felt fortunate to welcome into the Shanti family, our long-time community partner Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS), whose mission is to ensure that no person has to make the decision between caring for their pet or caring for themselves. 

    Thanks to the efforts of San Francisco’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force and the Department of Aging and Adult Services, Shanti’s newest program—the LGBT Aging and Abilities Support Network (LAASN)—launched earlier this year. Designed to ensure that LGBT seniors and adults with disabilities receive a sustained network of care, LAASN uses the Shanti model of Peer Support, Care Navigation, and supportive programming to currently serve nearly 150 clients in its inaugural year.

    Although the times we live in may feel particularly difficult, for the past 43 years Shanti has endured as a steady presence of compassion and hope. Today, we serve more than 2,200 clients and more than 700 companion animals. There is indeed much to celebrate! We invite you to join us in celebration: whether it’s on September 28 at Compassion is Universal, as a peer support volunteer, or as a member of our vibrant city extending a hand to those in need. Together, we continue to carve the path towards a more compassionate future for everyone.

    Kaushik Roy is the Executive Director of Shanti.


    Shanti’s Newest Program: the LGBT Aging and Abilities Support Network (LAASN)

    “Isolation is one of the largest problems we [the aging LGBT community] face.” – Supervisor Jeff Sheehy

    This past year, with support from the Department of Aging and Adult Services, Shanti officially launched its newest program, which provides supportive services to LGBT seniors and adults with disabilities. This program is a landmark initiative, designed to meet the evolving needs of our San Francisco community.

    In October 2012, the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force was formed, created to study and better understand the unique needs of LGBT seniors in our community. A host of issues affecting the aging LGBT population were identified, including a lack of services specifically dedicated to improving emotional and behavioral health and to reducing social isolation among LGBT seniors.

    As a longstanding community champion fighting against isolation of those most vulnerable, Shanti was selected by the city to address this urgent and growing need. With a strong foundation well-versed in meeting life’s challenges through a continuum of services, the LAASN program tackles the prevalent issue of social isolation in a variety of ways.

    Clients can be matched with a peer volunteer, who provides between 2–6 hours of one-on-one emotional and practical support. Additionally, clients of the LAASN program have a care navigator on staff who helps to navigate the often complex path to accessing care. From help with everyday tasks like laundry or pet care, to keeping medical appointments and coordinating transit, Shanti is helping to weave a safety net around LGBT seniors and adults in-need, ensuring that no one in our city walks the path of life alone.