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A Decade of Trust: The Medical Clinic’s Welcoming Environment and Diabetes Support Keep a Guest Happy and Healthy for More Than Ten Years

May 7, 2024

John Castillo has been a guest of the Medical Clinic for over 10 years. Born and raised in the vibrant heart of San Francisco’s Eureka Valley, now known as the Castro, John’s early years were filled with the normalcy of a working-class family. His mother, a retired dispatcher for the San Francisco Police Department, and his father, a longshoreman, instilled in him the values of hard work and perseverance.

However, John’s life took a challenging turn in the late 70s and early 80s when he succumbed to alcoholism and occasional drug use. Despite these hurdles, John found the strength to turn his life around, achieving sobriety on June 13, 1984, a date he commemorates with pride. “I became clean and sober. Now 38 years, I never had no relapses,” John recalled. His recovery marked the beginning of a new chapter that saw him forge a successful career in the printing industry, where he progressed steadily from the ground up to receiving his journeyman pressman card to operate and maintain printing presses in 1989.

The economic upheaval of 2009 dealt a severe blow to John’s stable life when the Chronicle eliminated 150 members of its staff due to failed negotiations with the Media Workers Guild labor union and millions of lost revenue per year since 2001. John managed temporarily with his severance pay and unemployment benefits, but the financial strain was unrelenting. By December 2011, he had lost his apartment and was pushed into a transient life of living in shelters and uncertainty.

During this tumultuous period, John’s commitment to sobriety was his anchor. He relied heavily on the support systems available, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and the discipline he had cultivated over the years. His path eventually led him to St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic, initially for a mandatory tuberculosis test required by a shelter. Disheartened by the dismal conditions at another facility, John was directed to St. Anthony’s—a decision that marked a significant turning point in his life.

Upon arriving at St. Anthony’s, John was struck by the clinic’s environment, remarking, “It was so nice and clean,” a stark contrast to the other medical facilities he had visited. “They wanted my insurance. I had no insurance. I told my story, no problem. They accepted me in good faith,” he said. With no insurance and his health waning, he shared his extensive medical history with Dr. David Lau, who was surprised by John’s detailed records. This proactive approach to his health care allowed the clinic staff to effectively manage his diabetes and other health concerns.

St. Anthony’s provides John with medical care and a sense of community and belonging. He is actively involved in a walking program for diabetics, spearheaded by Jaime, a clinic Medical Assistant. This program addresses physical health and fosters a supportive network for participants. John’s involvement in the program goes beyond mere participation; he is a role model who encourages others and shares insights on maintaining health and sobriety despite environmental triggers.

John’s story is also one of love and companionship. His four-year relationship with Florencia Wong, his partner whom he met in supportive housing, has brought additional joy, comfort, and camaraderie to his life. Together, they navigate the challenges of John’s past, including the lingering shadows of addiction and the daily struggles of managing diabetes.

Through its medical clinic and supportive programs, St. Anthony Foundation played a pivotal role in John’s transformation from a man struggling to find stability to a beacon of hope for others facing similar adversities. The foundation addressed his immediate medical needs and empowered him to take control of his health and well-being.

Reflecting on his journey, John emphasized that St. Anthony’s provided more than just medical care; it offered him a supportive community that believed in his recovery and supported his pursuit of a healthier, more stable life. “St. Anthony’s has been with me through thick and thin,” John gratefully acknowledged. His experience serves as a testament to the profound impact of compassionate care and community support on an individual’s life.

Your support helps to ensure that everyone in San Francisco has access to the services and welcoming community they need to flourish. Please help us continue uplifting San Franciscans through our programs by giving today.

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