Faithful Fools was founded in 1998 by Kay Jorgensen, a Unitarian Universalist minister and Carmen Barsody, a Franciscan from Little Falls, MN. The two of them were inspired and supported by a strong community of people who worked together in founding a community dedicated to deep personal change in the service of deep social change.
Kay had been working at the Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco at the corner of Geary and Franklin. Her life had become dedicated to connecting the Tenderloin (just a 10 minute walk down the hill) to the Church.
In 1997, Kay’s friend, Reza Leah Landman also happened to be Carmen’s spiritual teacher. Kay lovingly described Reza as a Jewish, Sufi, Mystic Therapist. She also was a teller of Teaching Tales. Kay’s response to Reza Leah’s invitation to meet Carmen was hesitation.
What do you get when a Unitarian Universalist and a Franciscan meet?
Why, a Fool, of course!!?!?
Kay Jorgensen and her beloved Golden VW
She didn’t really want to meet one more “nice” person with a romantic vision of working with homeless people. The romance usually didn’t last. The harsh reality of the streets would sink in, and the injustice of it all became overwhelming and they’d leave. It had happened before. It wasn't how she wanted to use her time and energy.
But it was generally an unwise thing to ignore one of Reza Leah’s recommendations. Her advice was most often exactly what you needed and usually came right when you needed it most. So Kay called Carmen, and they met over a cup of coffee at B.B’s Café on Franklin Street. Within a couple of hours, they both knew something unique was about to begin.
They began walking the streets of the Tenderloin together, meeting people and paying attention. Day after day, they noted what they saw and experienced on big sheets of newsprint. Within those notes and from their daily reflections, the mission and vision of Faithful Fools grew. Soon there were Street Retreats and then came the purple building at 234 Hyde St.
The rest as they say "is history."
Oscard and Carmen pose in front of All Stars
Carmen makes tracks on Hyde St. in the early days
234 Hyde St.
The Home of Faithful Fools
With the love and support of many generous people, Kay and Carmen found and purchased the purple building. They moved in on April 1st, 2000. The last of the mortgages will be paid off by 2022.
We know that space is a precious resource in the Tenderloin. We are stewards of this place and we invite you to be stewards as well by donating a few pennies or many pennies.
Carmen Barsody lived for 7 years in Nicaragua. She and other Franciscans from the Little Falls community lived in the barrio, listening and responding together. They worked with women to overcome family violence, found ways to help bring better nutrition to children and pregnant mothers, practiced the art of natural medicine together with people in the community, and worked and waited for water and electricity to come to a part of the city that had not been planned but was settled by people who just needed a place to live.
She noticed over the years how people from the north would come with great sympathy for impoverished people in Latin America, but had little relationship to the growing poverty and homelessness in the U.S. In 1997 she took a sabbatical in the Bay Area to work with her spiritual teacher, Reza Leah Landman.
Within a short while she realized she was being beckoned to work directly with people experiencing poverty in the U.S. It was a call to engage with the disconnect between the wealth of the U.S. and the deepening income divide and homelessness it was producing, not only on the streets of our cities but in Nicaragua too. Carmen soon came to understand that her sabbatical would become a permanent move to the Bay Area. The only question for her was “What’s next?”