San Francisco's Lyon-Martin clinic races to avoid closure 

A 30-year-old clinic named after The City’s most famous lesbian couple has one month to raise $500,000 or else its board of directors will start to pull the plug.

Lyon-Martin Health Services is a Market Street center that serves thousands of homeless, gay and lesbian and underprivileged patients a year. But faced with about $1.5 million in debt, the board’s chair said it can no longer employ its staff of about 18 unless the donations funnel in by March 31.

“People are fighting very hard to keep it open,” board chair Lauren Winter said.

The clinic, named after famous gay feminists and civil rights activists Del Martin and Phyllis Ann Lyon, started as a volunteer organization in 1979. It became a moral backbone for a community that struggled through the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s.

“They really stepped up and collected blood for gay men,” said Peter Grobert, a gay man who has lived in the Castro since the ’60s. “They put up bulletins that said, ‘Sisters, let’s get together for our gay brothers,’ since gay men couldn’t donate.”

So with this history, a momentous month of fundraising is not nearly as dubious as it may sound.

At the end of January, the center’s board voted to initiate a closing plan unless it could quickly raise at least $250,000 to keep the doors open and come up with a financial plan. And it did. As of Thursday, the center had raised $318,000.

A transman who visited the center years ago but now lives on the East Coast is coercing his philanthropic grandma to tack on another $10,000, Winter said.

“I was actually considering auctioning a date with me, but I didn’t know how much that’d bring in and that’s a scary thing to do,” Winter said.

But she said they still need $500,000 to secure a two-year debt-payoff system.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who represents the clinic’s district, also called for an emergency hearing that was held Wednesday night to generate ideas for city support. The City’s Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss the issue at its next regular meeting.

“The City can’t let them close,” Grobert said. “They just do too much.”

In the meantime, patients such as Patty Morse, who has relied on the clinic’s services for several years to help fix and relieve her damaged back tissue, are anxious.

“I’m petrified,” Morse said. “I don’t know where else I can go.”


Serving the community

2,500 Patients Lyon-Martin serves a year

$318,000 How much it has raised so far

$500,000 How much more it needs by March 31 to stay open

39 Percentage of patients who are minorities

14 Percentage who are transgender

41 Percentage who are lesbian or bisexual

84 Percentage who are 200 percent below the federal poverty line

Source: Lyon-Martin Health Services

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Kamala Kelkar

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