Non-Profit Corporation

The Marina Dock Newsletter June 2003

Dear Marina Dock members and patrons alike,
Thank you for your continued support. It's hard to believe the first half of the year is coming to a close. Not that time has any significance to me these days, beyond how it relates to meeting the financial obligations of the Marina Dock. We had another very successful month in May, meaning the rent got paid, we paid most of our bills, we stayed open every day, people came to meetings and to socialize, and left feeling better from the experience. That's really all we can do right now, and I think it's fair to say that's all people are expecting from us under the circumstances. The question being asked of us is not so much about how we are doing but "will you be here next month?"

Do we really need to remind anyone how bad things are on the economic front? Northern California has taken a terrible beating over the last 18 months. We, the Marina Dock, have adapted a Stalingrad-like stance. We are taking a lot of shots but we are fighting back. The general consensus seems to be that meetings all over are hurting. In fact, Tuesday Downtown, which used to be one of the largest AA meetings in Northern California, recently moved to a smaller location due to smaller attendance and lack of financial support.

On the one hand we have major demographic shifts and movements within the recovery community in San Francisco. Many people are losing jobs and relocating. The irony is, on the other hand, we have more new people than ever before showing up at the Marina Dock, desperately in need of our services.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and a Battle Royal on the Streets of San Francisco

Almost everyday we hear of some new approach or idea as to how to deal with San Francisco's biggest and most persistent social problem: "The Homeless". A problem that appears to be getting worse and not, better despite the allocation of millions of dollars in search of a solution over the last 20 years. Right now, we are informed that the myriad of existing city services, 83 at the last count, are threatened by budget cuts and lack of financial support from donors.
A few days ago, I walked from Geary and Powell to Van Ness Avenue at around 2:30 pm. In that 9 block stretch, I encountered about 12 individuals panhandling, all in various states of inebriation. Two of them, men in their early forties, were engaged in a drunken brawl, swinging wildly at each other from their respective wheelchairs.
It got me thinking about Abraham Maslow's humanistic school of human behavior. Maslow theorized there is a hierarchical nature to man's motivational structure. He set forth a five stage model in which the lower, most dominant needs control the actions of the organism until they are fulfilled, at which time the next higher needs in the hierarchy become predominant until they are satisfied, then the next level of needs come into play and so forth. The five levels in the hierarchy are best represented in a pyramid structure:

Esteem and Self-esteem
Love and Belonging
Safety and Security
Physiological Needs: air, food, water, etc.

Most of the time, Maslow claims, behavior is directed towards lower level needs. There is a marked difference according to Maslow between the behavior pattern of people motivated by lower needs (deficiency-oriented) and those motivated by higher needs (growth-oriented). The person who is still motivated to satisfy lower needs is characterized by a tendency to be self-centered and concerned with his own needs, to look for gratifications that are relatively short term and temporary, to behave on the basis of external cues, and to view others is terms of how they can satisfy his needs. On the other hand, the growth-oriented person is likely to be more concerned with the nature of the world at large and other people than himself, to be attracted to gratifications that lead to permanent and long-term change and to view people for what they are, not as potential subjects he can utilize to satisfy his needs.

How does this relate to the Marina Dock?

Tonight, David M and myself decided to do a little random sampling of individuals attending meetings at the Marina Dock. In a ten-hour period we asked about 40 men and 20 women if they were ever homeless during their drinking and using time. 60% of the men and 20% of the women said "yes". Bear in mind that this is the Marina District. If we did citywide sampling these percentages would increase considerably. If we sample the Marina Dock staff, of the six people who work behind the counter, four of us were homeless during our drinking and using.

David M's Story

"When I first came to the Marina Dock I was homeless and hopeless. I would come in to the 7:00 am meeting and I would attend every AA meeting on the schedule until closing time. I was around so much they started letting me watch the place for an hour or so, here and there, and then they continued to shoulder me with more responsibilities. Made me feel good about myself allowing me to grow in my own time and space. I had five years clean and sober last January."
What David doesn't tell you here is that he served his country with valor in Vietnam and was wounded in action. Coming home to wage his own private war with alcohol and drugs, he spent many years in the Tenderloin's trenches before he made it in through our doors. I am sure if you ask David or any of the other former homeless individuals (myself included) how we got from there to here, we would all answer in unison:
"We ran out of people to use, to satisfy our need for alcohol and drugs. Our deficiency-oriented behaviors were denied and we moved towards growth-oriented ones. We moved from dependency to independence and optimally functioning individuals when good-natured, well-intentioned people stopped enabling our self-destruction. If you want to help, give where it makes a difference, give us a fishing rod, we don't need fish".


Anthony T. Murray ("Irish Tony")


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