A Seat at the Table

A Seat at the Table

Local gay pastor to visit White House while his Feed Pasadena program gets under way

By André Coleman , Michael Saakyan 07/24/2014

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A local pastor was scheduled to visit the White House today to discuss health issues confronting the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  

 

The meeting will include remarks by officials from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services. About 100 leaders from the LGBT community will attend, including Pasadena Pastor Rick Eisenlord, who leads Good Shepherd Church and is also co-founder of the San Gabriel Valley Gay & Lesbian Center.

 

“A great concern is ensuring that patients with HIV have access to specialized treatment under Obamacare. This is especially true for those covered by Medi-Cal, for whom HMOs may provide limited access to such treatment,” said Eisenlord, whose church has started the Feed Pasadena program, an effort to feed, clothe and provide personal hygiene products to the area’s homeless population.

 

 

Eisenlord will hold a meeting in Pasadena in September to discuss what happened at the White House.

 

The 64-year-old minister was moved to action several years ago by a string of suicides among gay teenagers. In one incident in Boston, a young man filmed his roommate having sex with another teenager and posted footage of the encounter online. The gay teenager later hung himself from a tree. 

 

“I was shocked by the lack of services, especially for people in their 20s,” said Eisenlord. “That was the spark and as we talked with various leaders, they said they needed something here. I talked to his mother and she found her son hanging from a tree. It was heart wrenching to speak to her and that reinforced my desire to act.”

 

Since then, Good Shepherd Church has teamed with the city’s Public Health Department to provide services to members of the LGBT community.

 

Eisenlord started Good Shepherd Church in 2011 and says he has had a great turnout for Sunday worship since then. The church operates out of Pasadena’s Westminster Presbyterian Church and focuses on spreading the Gospel to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

 

“Pasadena has offered leadership in responding to the needs of the LGBT community and I am enthusiastic about the extension of services of support to that community,” said Mayor Bill Bogaard.

 

Councilwoman Jacque Robinson said she was happy to hear Eisenlord was heading to Washington to participate in the meeting.

 

“I’m not really surprised one of our local activists is going to this meeting, considering Pasadena’s long history of services in the LGBT community, both within the Public Health Department and community service agencies,” Robinson said.

 

Eisenlord took another step toward helping Pasadena’s disenfranchised communities earlier this year when he launched a new program called Feed Pasadena, which aims to help alleviate hunger. He developed the program to help deliver food and hygiene supplies to those who suffer from HIV- and AIDS-related illnesses as well as the general homeless population.

 

“People who are HIV positive and are taking medications have to almost always take it with food, because it upsets your stomach,” Eisenlord said. “If you don’t have food to eat, it’s hard to take your medicine because you would throw it up.” 

 

Although Eisenlord began Feed Pasadena to help those suffering from AIDS-related illnesses, he decided to broaden the program to help all homeless people. A study done by the 2014 Homeless Count showed a total number of 666 people in the city of Pasadena were homeless, with 2 percent of that number suffering from AIDS-related illnesses. Although the number of homeless people has decreased by 14 percent since last year, the number of those affected with AIDS and HIV remains the same.   

 

“In talking with the Pasadena Police Department and the Public Health Department we discovered that they had a homeless program,” Eisenlord said. “They both have separate programs that give food to homeless people and they call them different things but it’s the same thing, so we decided to try to coordinate all this together and bring it all under one umbrella called Feed Pasadena.” 

 

The food containers passed out at locations throughout the San Gabriel Valley are large plastic resealable bags containing bottled water and nonperishable foods such as snack packs and fruit. Roughly 400 bags have been distributed within the past several months. 

 

“We did a food drive at Vons and we collected cans of goods and then distributed them to the Health Department,” Eisenlord said. “I estimated we collected over $1,000 worth of nonperishable goods.”

 

Eisenlord said the hygiene bags are also important for the homeless population because they contain items people use everyday, such as sanitary wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and shampoo. However, these are the most expensive packs to be distributed. 

 

“We can go to the 99cent Store for a lot of the canned goods but it’s the hygiene items that are expensive and hard for us to get at a discount,” Eisenlord said. “But we have been working with Venice Family Clinic and they have donated thousands of dollars worth of hygiene items for Feed Pasadena.” 

 

“We noticed there was a need in Pasadena [for the program] so I brought in my brother and his wife, my mother and my sister,” said Good Shepherd member Hector Briones. “[Eisenlord] just wants to help get some type of nourishments to these families or people in need.”

 

Eisenlord said Feed Pasadena is always looking for volunteers for the program and will be having a food drive for the end of July and possibly a collection box where people can drop off cans of goods in the future. 

  

“I think the major issue coming up will be food scarcity, the inability for people to get food,” Eisenlord said. “Either it’s too expensive, they can’t afford it or they’re homeless. It’s a tragedy, especially in a city with as much money as Pasadena; nobody should go to bed hungry in this city.” 

 

Another major issue Eisenlord faces is finding donations for hygiene products especially for women. 

 

“We need to develop specific packs for women because they have special needs,” Eisenlord noted. “There are women who are homeless too, so we want to develop that as well.” 

 

Besides food and hygiene supplies, Feed Pasadena also aims to help clothe people in need. 

 

“One of the policemen said they needed sweatpants and sweatshirts [to distribute] so at church we had a Bring a Sweatshirt to Church Sunday,” Eisenlord said. “We had everybody bring sweatshirts and sweatpants on Sunday and we collected them and gave them out to the Police Department to distribute.”

 

Eisenlord said he receives a lot of help from members of his congregation at Good Shepherd, people like Briones and his family who have helped the program remarkably. Ultimately, Eisenlord sees even more services coming to the LGBT community due to the White House’s willingness to listen.

 

“I can tell people we have friends in the White House,” said Eisenlord. “I can remember when President Reagan would not even mention AIDS. The fact that I can walk into the White House, an openly gay pastor, shows how far we have come. We are at the table and that is an exciting thing.”

 

A local pastor was scheduled to visit the White House today to discuss health issues confronting the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.    

 

The meeting will include remarks by officials from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services. About 100 leaders from the LGBT community will attend, including Pasadena Pastor Rick Eisenlord, who leads Good Shepherd Church and is also co-founder of the San Gabriel Valley Gay & Lesbian Center.

 

“A great concern is ensuring that patients with HIV have access to specialized treatment under Obamacare. This is especially true for those covered by Medi-Cal, for whom HMOs may provide limited access to such treatment,” said Eisenlord, whose church has started the Feed Pasadena program, an effort to feed, clothe and provide personal hygiene products to the area’s homeless population.

 

Eisenlord will hold a meeting in Pasadena in September to discuss what happened at the White House.

 

The 64-year-old minister was moved to action several years ago by a string of suicides among gay teenagers. In one incident in Boston, a young man filmed his roommate having sex with another teenager and posted footage of the encounter online. The gay teenager later hung himself from a tree. 

 

“I was shocked by the lack of services, especially for people in their 20s,” said Eisenlord. “That was the spark and as we talked with various leaders, they said they needed something here. I talked to his mother and she found her son hanging from a tree. It was heart wrenching to speak to her and that reinforced my desire to act.”

 

Since then, Good Shepherd Church has teamed with the city’s Public Health Department to provide services to members of the LGBT community.

 

Eisenlord started Good Shepherd Church in 2011 and says he has had a great turnout for Sunday worship since then. The church operates out of Pasadena’s Westminster Presbyterian Church and focuses on spreading the Gospel to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

 

“Pasadena has offered leadership in responding to the needs of the LGBT community and I am enthusiastic about the extension of services of support to that community,” said Mayor Bill Bogaard.

 

Councilwoman Jacque Robinson said she was happy to hear Eisenlord was heading to Washington to participate in the meeting.

 

“I’m not really surprised one of our local activists is going to this meeting, considering Pasadena’s long history of services in the LGBT community, both within the Public Health Department and community service agencies,” Robinson said.

 

Eisenlord took another step toward helping Pasadena’s disenfranchised communities earlier this year when he launched a new program called Feed Pasadena, which aims to help alleviate hunger. He developed the program to help deliver food and hygiene supplies to those who suffer from HIV- and AIDS-related illnesses as well as the general homeless population.

 

“People who are HIV positive and are taking medications have to almost always take it with food, because it upsets your stomach,” Eisenlord said. “If you don’t have food to eat, it’s hard to take your medicine because you would throw it up.” 

 

Although Eisenlord began Feed Pasadena to help those suffering from AIDS-related illnesses, he decided to broaden the program to help all homeless people. A study done by the 2014 Homeless Count showed a total number of 666 people in the city of Pasadena were homeless, with 2 percent of that number suffering from AIDS-related illnesses. Although the number of homeless people has decreased by 14 percent since last year, the number of those affected with AIDS and HIV remains the same. 

 

“In talking with the Pasadena Police Department and the Public Health Department we discovered that they had a homeless program,” Eisenlord said. “They both have separate programs that give food to homeless people and they call them different things but it’s the same thing, so we decided to try to coordinate all this together and bring it all under one umbrella called Feed Pasadena.” 

 

The food containers passed out at locations throughout the San Gabriel Valley are large plastic resealable bags containing bottled water and nonperishable foods such as snack packs and fruit. Roughly 400 bags have been distributed within the past several months. 

 

“We did a food drive at Vons and we collected cans of goods and then distributed them to the Health Department,” Eisenlord said. “I estimated we collected over $1,000 worth of nonperishable goods.”

 

Eisenlord said the hygiene bags are also important for the homeless population because they contain items people use everyday, such as sanitary wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and shampoo. However, these are the most expensive packs to be distributed. 

 

“We can go to the 99cent Store for a lot of the canned goods but it’s the hygiene items that are expensive and hard for us to get at a discount,” Eisenlord said. “But we have been working with Venice Family Clinic and they have donated thousands of dollars worth of hygiene items for Feed Pasadena.” 

 

“We noticed there was a need in Pasadena [for the program] so I brought in my brother and his wife, my mother and my sister,” said Good Shepherd member Hector Briones. “[Eisenlord] just wants to help get some type of nourishments to these families or people in need.”

 

Eisenlord said Feed Pasadena is always looking for volunteers for the program and will be having a food drive for the end of July and possibly a collection box where people can drop off cans of goods in the future. 

 

“I think the major issue coming up will be food scarcity, the inability for people to get food,” Eisenlord said. “Either it’s too expensive, they can’t afford it or they’re homeless. It’s a tragedy, especially in a city with as much money as Pasadena; nobody should go to bed hungry in this city.” 

 

Another major issue Eisenlord faces is finding donations for hygiene products especially for women. 

 

“We need to develop specific packs for women because they have special needs,” Eisenlord noted.

 

“There are women who are homeless too, so we want to develop that as well.” 

 

Besides food and hygiene supplies, Feed Pasadena also aims to help clothe people in need. 

 

“One of the policemen said they needed sweatpants and sweatshirts [to distribute] so at church we had a Bring a Sweatshirt to Church Sunday,” Eisenlord said. “We had everybody bring sweatshirts and sweatpants on Sunday and we collected them and gave them out to the Police Department to distribute.”

 

Eisenlord said he receives a lot of help from members of his congregation at Good Shepherd, people like Briones and his family who have helped the program remarkably. Ultimately, Eisenlord sees even more services coming to the LGBT community due to the White House’s willingness to listen.

 

“I can tell people we have friends in the White House,” said Eisenlord. “I can remember when President Reagan would not even mention AIDS. The fact that I can walk into the White House, an openly gay pastor, shows how far we have come. We are at the table and that is an exciting thing.” 

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