About 6 years ago, Barbara Brust ran head long into her calling. She had some xtra money in her pocket and was distressed by the impending holidays. Being depressed during holiday season is not allowed you know. "Go serve dinner at Glide Church..." No, that is just a line, no real interaction.
Instead she got the largest turkey she could afford and all the fixin’s for a great feed. After many hours of cooking she got a table, plates, napkins, knives and forks, a friend to help and by late afternoon they set up a buffet on a corner of MLK Park. They were the fourth group to visit that thanksgiving day and most every diner told them that they were the best!
Barbara witnessed people crying with gratitude, got many hugs, especially one from this womon she described as the most intimate, loving hug, so real she was sure she must have known her from somewhere else. She did not though. Around sundown they packed about 20 plates to continue handing out on the streets and boxed the rest for tomorrow.
Three days later Barbara was still at it, out of left overs and going it on her own cruising the streets of Berkeley serving through the passenger window of her hooptie. Talking to a neighbor/friend about what she was doing, her friend wanted to join her. That night they decided to do this a couple times a week. Consider the Homeless! was born.
Three months later, with about six volunteers found on Nextdoor, her thread caught the eye of one of their PR people who reached out to talk with her and pitch a story. Instead an introduction was made to KTVU Channel 2 News who picked her for a story on the news. A full day of filming and following the car serving; a great piece of video was shown that night as well as during holiday season for years. Barbara has a passionate way of talking and it comes from her heart. No notes, no script, just heart. You can see that as well as feel it every time. She had a vision and a calling and the energy and drive to make it happen. She is constantly amazed at how many folks sign up to help, several hundred over the past almost six years. From serving about 25-30 cups of soup 2 nights a week to feeding almost 150 cups now for each soup run. When the "Shelter in Place Health Order" was being prepared Barbara tenaciously petitioned for EXEMPTION Status from this Order so Consider The Homeless! Would be allowed to continue the usual outreach work. At the 11th hour, she won and was granted a written exemption. During the next 4 days she developed an emergency program to distribute grocery bags of food to hold our friends over till the soup van returned a few days later. The need is growing day to day and "Consider The Homeless! Still CARES..." Barbara, along with a Coalition of other groups and like minded individuals are tending to the needs of and helping in any way they can to keep Berkeley's un-Housed as safe and healthy as possible. While organizing the "Consider The Homeless! Still CARES..." project Barbara decided in her heart, that this was the good and right thing to do, and became comfortable with her resolve that she would continue even to the length of giving her life for the cause. For the next 2 months she worked tirelessly, organizing, recruiting, fundraising and going out in the trenches following ALL CDC guidelines to be safe for all.. losing her voice a few times pleading with people on the street to follow her lead and to stay safe for all in the community. Due to her already moderately disabled body she had not been out with the soup van for some time… it was heartbreaking for her to not be able to hug her friends she had not seen for some time, and worse asking that they stay 6 feet away. But the project was going to work and people learned how to stay the distance and now she could turn it over to the new volunteers to deliver the groceries.
By mid May her legs started to swell dangerously, it seemed like they were three times their normal size, till they could no longer hold her up. A few days being bed bound convinced her it was time to go to the ER. Almost 3 months later Barbara has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer with matasticized bone lesions. There is no stage 5…. A sample of bone marrow was drawn in the hope of seeing if it could tell if the bone lesions were breast cancer or had become bone cancer. It could not tell. Actual samples of bone must be cut out in the hope that the attempt goes through the 4 stages needed to give up a clear diagnosis. Bone biopsies often need multiple painful and invasive sample before any viable sample is gotten. For now she is on medicine for chemo to fight the breast cancer, both pill form but there will be no cure. It is all a measure to delay and slow it down.
Barbara and a few friends are doing all they can to expedite approval and assignment of aides to help with her hour to hour care. She is doing all she can to learn ways to take care of ALL physical needs while she is on her own. Sadly, the lack of money and only Medicare and Medi-Cal will never give her what she needs day to day. Money for modification of bathroom with a central drain installed so she can bathe.. multiple grab bars, transportation to Dr visits, aides to help her do almost everything else to keep the house “clean”, food she can eat, etc etc Add to this her determination to get her estate into a trust for Consider The Homeless! This way, they can continue the work she began. She is working hard to at least be able to continue with “Good Trouble” It feeds her heart and soul and keeps her spirits up. Can you help?