(Drug Counseling in SF’s Fillmore in the pre-Redevelopment 1970’s)
“If anybody wanted to work for us, we gave them a title and no money”—Leroy Looper
We opened our detoxification center on Fillmore Street in 1969. We were open day and night, 24 hours a day for a month before we got out first client. People were afraid of trusting any program. If a client was on probation or parole and admitted to having a habit, he could go to jail. After repeating to them over and over again that once they walked into my door, nobody would or would touch them, I swore to them. When they had no other choice they finally walked in. I had already developed relationships with parole, probation and the Chief of Police, and everybody kept their word. Reality House became a sanctuary for drug addicts.
I remember once a new policeman walked in R.H.W. to arrest one of my clients. I politely asked him t wait until 1 called his superior. After a short conversation, he apologized and left. The word spread through the Fillmore and we were in business. Charles and I made contact with Dr. Meyers who was a professor of Pharmacology and was one of the few doctors who would take a chance with drug addicts. Also, his wife would come down to the Fillmore to help addicts detox. Dr. Frederick Meyers was a very short white man who came to the Fillmore with his little black bag undisguised, doing his thing and he was never robbed.
Charles Brewster finally organized the white business world by joining State Compensation, a group of staff members who had created a group to help feed and take care of the day by day needs of Reality House West. Charles Brewster developed the first grant for R.H.W. I remember once Charles was working in R.H.W. when a client came in with a gun in his hand. Charles asked him very politely what was his problem. The client replied he wasn’t sure. Charles said, “give me your gun and we can sit down and find out what it is you may need Charles also said he worked best under less obvious stress. It was a good encounter.
At the beginning we all carried guns for our own protection. We were dedicated to the protection of our baby (Reality House). The scene at the detoxification center was really out of sight. We had one toilet for everybody. We sometimes couldn’t pay the telephone bill.
We would put up blankets to separate male and female. People had to sleep in their clothes it was so cold. If it rained outside, it rained inside. Most of the time we had no food. People kicking habits didn’t eat anyway. But once they did, they were ravenous. They were insatiable.
We used to go to the Rib Place and pick up left over food. Go to Farmer’s Market and bring home whatever they gave us. We were forced into being vegetarians. But we loved being together.
Each day I ran the groups for the people in the house and the community while Charles was out trying to get us some money. He was the administrator and I was the director. George was staff and associate director. That’s all we had in those days.
If anybody wanted to work for us, we gave them a title and no money. We had one other staff person, Hosea Blye He was an ex-addict from Daytop. Between the four of us, we went crazy. Charles and I lived in meetings. WACO – WAPAC, Westside, State Comp. Radio, T.V. We lived and breathed Reality House West.
One day one of Charles’s proposals got funded: The State Public Health Department. But it was only enough to take care of some basic needs. Between our home life and Reality House , Charles felt he should go back to N.Y.C for a vacation. On his return he still looked tired, so we convinced him to go to the hospital where he just laid down and died at age 23.
I was shocked, it happened so quickly. No one was prepared for Charles dying. The Westside grant had just been approved. The money that would have made our lives more beneficial, the money that would have allowed us to hire more staff had finally been approved. His first check would go to the mortician. I went completely crazy. I felt tired, empty and depleted.
Kathy, a white student from State who had come to Reality House West as a work-study student, had become a true Reality worker. Prior to work-study she was an international relations student. As a student she demonstrated against the bullshit that was going down at S.F. State. Kathy was a God-send to Reality House when Charles went away to N.Y.C. for a rest. She took over his duties. She was a secretary, clerk, administrator, driver and treasurer. When Charles died, we both collapsed.
I sent word out to the churches. My friends and anybody who cared to please find me a place to get it together. I could not go on. My wife and I had separated. I was not staying home with my wife and son. Kathy and I had developed a relationship, the responsibility was heavy. My relationship to blackness was still hanging on.
I was not ready to deal with a white relationship. I was still wearing dashikis. I had been wearing them for several years. They symbolized my blackness. Kathy came into my life at the precise moment in my life when I needed love and tenderness. Kathy and I worked day and night, seven days a week trying to keep Reality House together. Kathy also had some money she inherited from her uncle, which was depleted by helping my situation with my wife and fed Reality House and me.
Now the money was here and we were exhausted. The word finally came down that somebody in the church had a complete camp in Jamestown that we could use to get away from it all. Once we arrived at the camp we made a bed on the floor and collapsed. We woke up a few days later and it dawned on me again that Charles was gone.
Charles Brewster’s mother and I were unrequited lovers. We could never get it together. We loved each other as friends, but we could never be lovers. Dorothy was for me the greatest therapist of all time. If anybody could have saved her son, I could. He came to California with me and now he was dead. Shit! I couldn’t save myself. How could I face her? But I had to. When she arrived in San Francisco she dropped all her bad feelings on me. I tried to give her the realities of the situation. But to no avail.
I personally gave her all the money I felt that Charles would have received if he were alive. Reality House paid for the body to go back to New York City. I lost Doro Brewster as a friend. All because I was not a God. Charles Brewster and all the ex-addicts should have a story written about their contribution to the field of Substance Abuse.
Loving and caring for others on top of your own personal pain is worth nothing to some people.
One of the people who truly cared about the addicts was Cyrus Carter. He was an ex-addict. He not only worked for Reality House for nothing, he also joined the Board of Directors and directed the training center. He also was the Administrative Director for us, the firm one, the non-emotional thinker. He did not go for bullshit. He was all business. He also was an excellent trainer.
Cy has always been there for Reality House West. He is the top ex-addict in the field. Cy and his wife, Louise, were the only people who could deal with me when my shit was falling apart. They stayed with me for years.
Right on to good friends.
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