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Bernardo Arelano is a fisherman from Oaxaca; his boat was destroyed in 2005 in Hurricane Stan.  Some friends invited him to come up and work with them in San Francisco to make enough money to buy a new boat; he agreed, and set out north.
He walked for two days through the streets of Los Angeles to get to the train station, sleeping outside, avoiding the drug dealers and others as best he could.  When he reached San Francisco, his friends had gone, leaving no contact information.  Bernardo was in a strange city, nearly broke, completely alone.  He slept for two days under a bridge, until some passerby told him about Dolores Street Community Services.

"It’s very nice here," he says with a smile.  He rubs his hands while he talks; they are covered in paint and tile dust after a day of hard work.   "Everyone is friendly, and it’s safe. It is like having a family."   The men at the shelter are all in the same situation, and everyone helps each other out.

It took two months for Bernardo to find steady work, and he spent much of his time meeting people, walking around, making contacts to see what was available.

"It was hard," he says.  "I was glad to have a place to go where I had friends in the same situation."  Eventually, he met a local woman who buys and remodels fixer-upper houses around the city, and she hired Bernardo for a remodeling job in the Outer Mission. 

After working for two months, Bernardo saved enough for a down payment on a new fishing boat.   With one week to go at Dolores Street, he found an apartment in the city to rent with a friend; his own place.  The local woman will continue to hire him for remodeling jobs, and he has also volunteered to help with maintenance projects at the Dolores Street offices.

On his days off, Bernardo goes to the beach to watch the water.  Eventually, with the help of Dolores Street Community Services, he will get back to the fishing he loves.
Dolores Street Community Services, 938 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-282-6209, info(AT)