TREC was established in 1982 as a center for creative arts and reflective thought to empower homeless and economically disenfranchised people. The program operated under the umbrella of the St. Anthony Foundation until it spun off and was established as a separate non-profit in 1990. TREC uses the arts to help transform participants’ lives, to inspire leadership, to build a platform for the voice of the excluded and alienated, and to form a cohesive community. TREC’s program is centered around the principle of people coming together to create and learn from each other and themselves.
It sponsors workshops, readings, cultural presentations, publications and community-building events in the Tenderloin and in other venues in the S.F. Bay area. A broad range of events include: gallery exhibition, gatherings of writers and artists discussing writing and cultural works, readings at the San Francisco Main Library and at Berkeley City College.
TREC has been doing this work in the Tenderloin and surrounding communities for over 30 years. Whole issues of Street Spirit, a homeless advocacy newspaper, have been dedicated to writings from our workshops.
The effectiveness of TREC’s programs has also been evaluated through qualitative studies. A study by Ken Butigan, of the Franciscan Nonviolence Center Pace e Bene, documents the TREC process using interviews with participants. The study can be read in the Pace e Bene booklet, “Experiments in Group Transformations.” Another qualitative study is that of Caroline Heller, Ph.D. She completed a study of TREC’s Women’s Writing Workshop entitled Until We Are Strong Together, that was published by Columbia University’s Teachers College Press in 1997.
This four year study, backed up by hundreds of hours of tape-recorded workshop sessions, interviews, and field notes, demonstrates the potent community-building results of the TREC educational process.
TREC constantly strives to empower the people of the community by providing a place for their ideas to flower. TREC’s workshops develop organically from interest coming from the community. TREC encourages leadership that is indigenous. The late, renowned poet and long-time Tenderloin resident Mary TallMountain joined the Women’s Writing Workshop and eventually became its facilitator. Resident reporter and neighborhood activist, Sopath Pak brought his passion to TREC and established a tutoring program for high school dropouts. Street poet Jerry Miley extended his love of books by becoming TREC Librarian for four years.
At TREC our leaders and members explore their relationship with themselves as well as their relationship to the whole. Often, the role of leader in a group is traded among the members on a regular basis. Other times, when a leader leaves, another from the group takes his or her place. TREC encourages people to take on roles they might have long forgotten or never really learned. Volunteers who have demonstrated sufficient self discipline and creativity are invited to assume leadership roles such as workshop facilitator, board member, editor, or outreach worker. Volunteers usually undergo a period of mentorship with existing facilitators. Former TREC mentors have include professional artists and activists such as Eric Ehn from the Iowa Writing Workshop and Theatre Artaud, Miya Masoaka, recording artist with Asian Improv Records, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, published novelist and writer for the East Bay Express, Pearl Ubungen, choreographer, and Maketa Groves, poet and published author at Curbstone Press.
TREC’s Freedom Voices Publications publishes “works that speak to or from communities on the margins.” It has published numerous chapbooks and small volumes of poetry from workshop members (in editions of 100 to 200 copies) which are distributed on a non-profit basis in order to build community. The most recent book published in 2011 was Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present by Art Hazelwood. http://freedomvoices.org/new/hobos. The book is based on the traveling exhibition of the same name that began at the California Historical Society in San Francisco in February of 2009 and has been presented at numerous galleries around California.
It echoes a similar book published in 1997, edited by Ben Clarke—a collection of poems written and inspired by the depression era photographs of Dorothea Lange and contemporary Oakland photographer Scott Braley.
TREC has a long history of working in collaboration with other Tenderloin organizations including Hospitality House, the YMCA, Exit Theatre, the 509 Cultural Center and Luggage Store, the Vietnamese Youth Development Center, the Senior Living Room and many more.
TREC also helps its members to memorialize those who have died and has sponsored memorial services and tributes to the lives of members such as founding member Mary TallMountain in 1994, and more recently, Rhett Stuart in 2009, http://freedomvoices.org/new/rhettstuart, creating memorial booklets for distribution at community gatherings. http://freedomvoices.org/new/files/1.Rhett.Stuart-MemorialBooklet.pdf
At Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center (TREC) we articulate the following goals.
Create community across boundaries of race, class, national origin, immigration status, gender and sexual orientation.
Celebrate the artistic cultural and spiritual values of our members and constituents.
Relate the struggles of homeless people, immigrants, residents, elders and youth of the Tenderloin to wider cultural, social and political issues of our times.
Integrate the insights and struggles of our daily encounters into a non-violent practice that challenges the marginalization of our constituents.
Tenderloin reflection and Education Center Objectives and Purposes from the by laws.
Article 2, Section 1.
OBJECTIVES AND PURPOSES
The primary activity of the Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center shall be to create an interfaith learning and resource center for persons from diverse religous, cultural and economic backgrounds, but particularly for persons living in poverty in the inner city.
The Center will:
a.) encourage people of diverse faiths to discover and affirm their spiritual values;
b.) provide on-going opportunities for social analysis and theological reflection;
c.) develop inclusive educational methodologies particularly through small group process.
d.) create multi-cultural opportunities for participants to express themselves creatively, through the arts, music, dance, and writing;
e.) publish and disseminate information and art which inspires reflection and analysis on spirituality, society, culture and economics;
f.) sponsor public events, such as retreats, lectures, plays, readings, musical performances and discussion forums;
g.) undertake additional educational and reflective projects which further these objectives.