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Dane
 
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News for 05.15.16
05.15.16
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Michael Dane is a huge fan of the British comedy group Monty Python. His favorite movie is Requiem for A Dream, and he’s pretty sure ‘’Ellyn Burstyn is the most capable actress of that whole cast.” Dane loves movies; he was one of the first people to show up at City Hope’s Oscar party this year. “I was here for the Oscars,” he said, “but I don’t really keep up on that kind of thing.”

If you go by Dane’s movie collection, though, that’s hard to believe. His room at The Elk, a Single Room Occupancy Hotel in the Tenderloin, has “five layers of DVDs stacked against the wall—at least 500-600 of them, and then there are more movies on my computer.” The Elk is one of the Tenderloin SROs that City Hope has built a relationship with, and it’s through that partnership that Dane has become a regular at the City Hope Community Center.

Dane was a military brat who grew up all over the country. His earliest memory was on Coronado Island, just off the coast of San Diego, before the causeway that connected the two cities was built. His father was in the Marine Corps, and Dane was born in Washington, D.C. before the family moved to Coronado. He built more memories on Coronado, like the day the bridge opened between downtown San Diego and Coronado: His brother punched him in the arm and he let go of his balloon.

His family moved back to D.C., then to Monterey, and then to Hawaii. He was there from 4th through 6th grade, and loved the nice weather, but got beat up on the base as a kid. The family lived on Camp Smith, and their dining room window had views out onto Pearl Harbor. But they never stayed in one place too long, and by junior high Dane’s family was back in the Washington, D.C. area. “At that point my father was not pleased with my ‘lifestyle choices’—I’m gay—and told me he wouldn’t have me in the house one more night.

Dane moved out and moved into what he calls “freak housing,” places where, one by one, he had horrendous experiences with roommates and a string of jobs. “In my twenties, I had a job installing ADT burglar alarms, but all the travel tore up my car,” he said. He worked at a bar, delivered pizza, and worked as a courier. Housing situation after housing situation fell through, sometimes literally—one home in Falls Church, VA, had no heat, no paint, and a leaky roof. The ten people living there relied on kerosene heaters and electric blankets to stay warm during cold Virginia winters.

Dane eventually got a job in New York, which led him, in 1994, to San Francisco. He lived in the Mission and then South of Market in a youth hostel, and when he got fired from his original job he got a job cleaning bars. It was steady work, but a crew eventually replaced him and he ended up homeless.

He lived for a while in Buena Vista Park, where he learned that a good way to sleep in a park is “to get a bunch of trash bags and make a large ring around you, because if someone is coming near you, the trash bags crinkle and you can hear them.” Mostly, Dane says, he avoided other homeless people. “I had some experience with drugs,” he said, “but I watched it just destroy my friends. They either ended up in jail or died.”

Dane moved into the Elk ten years ago, after being in a couple of other hotels. “It didn’t used to be a bad neighborhood,” he said. “You could go out at 2am and walk up to the donut shop.” Now, he mostly stays in his room and watches movies.

Dane Recently, though, a social worker at the Elk came around telling residents that there was going to be an event in the lobby. Paul Trudeau from City Hope was going to talk to everyone about what they were doing in the neighborhood, and Dane showed up. He had gone to other places, like St. Anthony’s, but coming to the City Hope Community Center “is like going to your friend’s house for a movie,” Dane says. “You can talk about anything with Paul. Like when we had that talent show, and there were all these kids running around like they had too much Kool-Aid, I teased Paul: ‘I know why you have all that gray hair!’ You can talk about anything with Paul.”

Dane comes regularly to game nights and movie nights, and loves that people from the community come down with really good home-cooked meals. “Really good, and I’m picky!” He’s made friends with some of the other folks who show up to City Hope events, and has grown particularly fond of Bingo. “The prizes are great! People from City Church show up, and we do trivia night sometimes.” Dane recently went to an event hosted by the Newbigin House of Studies with the social justice activist Jim Wallis, and brought the guy who lives two doors down from him at the Elk.

“To me, City Hope is all about community, family, and fellowship. It’s not just a close group of us; [City Hope] is open for anyone who wants to come in. We learn how to keep an eye on people who need us, and they’re welcome.” Dane has felt like the City Hope Community Center has been like a family for him, both the staff and the volunteers. “There are so many people that come here! They sit down next to you, they talk to you—they’re very nice people!”