Family Link marks 30 years

Family Link board members Darien De Lorenzo, left, Bob Brown, and Frank "Franzi" Latko join staff member Sister Ruth Hall and board member Dominic George at the home. Photo: Khaled Sayed
Family Link board members Darien De Lorenzo, left, Bob Brown, and Frank “Franzi” Latko join staff
member Sister Ruth Hall and board member Dominic George at the home. Photo: Khaled Sayed

A nonprofit that has provided families of seriously ill loved ones with an

inexpensive place to stay will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a

benefit next week.

The Family Link operates a guesthouse in San Francisco’s Castro

district where visitors with limited financial means can stay when they

visit their loved ones who have life-threatening illnesses or injuries. The

agency was established in 1985 during the early years of the AIDS

epidemic but now includes other illnesses and injuries in its mission.

The benefit is scheduled for Saturday, August 8 at St. Aidan’s Parish

Hall, 101 Gold Mine Drive in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights

neighborhood. Family Link receives no government support or funding

from HIV/AIDS or other nonprofit organizations.

“Our goal is to be a ‘home away from home’ where guests, staff, and

volunteers together create an atmosphere of friendship, love, and care,”

explained Sister Ruth Hall, 66, program director and co-founder of the

Family Link.

Hall remembers 1981 when people started getting sick with a

mysterious disease – before it was identified as AIDS or HIV – and

started dying from it. Many of them were gay men.

In the beginning the Family Link used to house families of sick people

in a tiny apartment at the convent run by sisters at the Episcopal

Community of St. Francis. The guests normally stayed for just a day or

two, before the person died.

“It was that quick, it was like a road accident,” Hall said. “There was no

stigma, there was nothing.”

In 1985 the Family Link received its nonprofit status and went looking

for a larger accommodation for guests. Don Tobin, who was a friend of

Hall’s, was a one-quarter owner of a building on Hayes Street, near

Baker. Tobin allowed the agency to use his share of the building for a

minimum rent so they could host people there, which they did for 10

years.

“Don Tobin told me that his family might need that someday,” Hall said.

“In fact his parents did stay with us before he passed away.”

After Tobin died the agency had to move.

“By the end of that 10 years we were paying half a million dollars in rent,” Hall said. “That sounds like nothing these days but it

was a lot of money back than. We left that place with nothing but used furniture.”

The Family Link bought its current building at 317 Castro Street after the owner of the home died and left the building to AIDS

Emergency Fund.

“The emergency fund knew that we needed a place, so they asked us if we could buy it,” Hall said. “We were able to get a

mortgage and buy this building and we fixed it up. That was in 1994.”

The house has six bedrooms, shared bathrooms, a kitchen area, dining area, an upstairs kitchenette, and garden area.

Unfortunately, the home is not accessible due to it being on a hill and having stairs, according to the agency’s website.

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