Trans woman alleges sexual retaliation by St. James Infirmary staff

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday March 28, 2023
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A transgender woman has complained she's being told to vacate her transitional housing provided by St. James Infirmary after refusing to go to a sex club with staffers. Photo: John Ferrannini
A transgender woman has complained she's being told to vacate her transitional housing provided by St. James Infirmary after refusing to go to a sex club with staffers. Photo: John Ferrannini

The San Francisco Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development has ordered St. James Infirmary to investigate a claim by a trans woman that she is a victim of sexual retaliation by some of the nonprofit's workers.

Blanche Kriege, 31, told the Bay Area Reporter she lives at the Bobbie Jean Baker House in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood. She said she is being kicked out of the transitional housing facility April 8 after refusing to accompany two St. James workers to a sex club. (The B.A.R. is not naming the two accused staffers because no criminal charges have been filed.)

"This complaint was forwarded to MOHCD staff this morning," MOHCD communications manager Anne Stanley stated to the B.A.R. on March 16. "Shortly after receiving the complaint, MOHCD staff directed St. James Infirmary's acting executive director and board president to conduct a full investigation into the allegations."

Stanley's statement added, "We are staying apprised of the situation as additional information is made available and cannot offer further comment at this time."

Anita "Durt" O'Shea, the chief operating officer of St. James, has confirmed that an attorney is conducting an investigation. Photo: Courtesy St. James Infirmary  

Anita "Durt" O'Shea, the chief operating officer of St. James, confirmed the existence of the investigation.

"St. James has hired a third-party investigator to investigate this grievance," O'Shea stated to the B.A.R. "Because it is an active investigation I cannot comment on it."

O'Shea confirmed that attorney Karen Carrera is the third-party investigator. Carrera did not respond to a request for comment for this report as of press time.

Kriege told the B.A.R. that she is a Bay Area native who became homeless after losing her apartment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She moved into the Bobbie Jean Baker House, an 18-bed transitional house for trans, gender-nonconforming, and intersex people in the Mission. It's part of Our Trans Home SF, a city-funded coalition that includes St. James and works to address homelessness and housing instability in these populations.

"The BJB House offers an independent & supportive living environment with integrated case management services to help TGI individuals who are experiencing homelessness stabilize and begin a pathway to long-term housing," St. James' website states.

"Residents at the BJB house may stay up to 18 months and are not required to pay any rent, are provided with basic food staples, in-house supportive services, and case management. Our program has a waitlist, however, we encourage people to apply as turnover will happen over time," the website states.

Creepy advances alleged
Kriege said that after moving there in August 2022, she was subjected to "a number of creepy advancements and touches" from one person who works there.

For example, Kriege alleges the first St. James employee repeatedly asked her to join him at the park, to which she repeatedly said no. But things became clearer to Kriege, she said, after he asked her on December 27 to join him and a second employee at a sex club.

"He drags me out and, when I get to the bus stop, he asks if I want to go to a sex club with him and [the second St. James employee]," Kriege said. "I just said, 'sorry, not my thing.' Something like that."

After she said no, it became harder for Kriege to get her needs met at the home, she said.

"When I first got here, when I asked for something, I got it right away," Kriege said.

However, a mattress change Kriege requested was taking "a very long time."

"I asked for one and every time they said 'it's in process,'" Kriege said.

Then, a third St. James employee told Kriege that the first St. James employee would be willing to give her his "old gross mattress," however "there's a little bit of cum on it, but you won't care, right?" she recalled.

"That's what I was told," Kriege said.

Kriege said that on January 26, the first and second St. James employees called her into "an accusatory gas-lighting bully session." Kriege said that she was told people had complaints against her, but when pressed they were too vague or nonsensical to respond to.

"There've been issues and concerns against you but we can't explain them without violating HIPAA," Kriege characterized St. James staff as saying at a subsequent January 30 meeting, referring to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

After receiving "heavy breathing voicemails" in the early morning hours of February 5 from the first St. James employee's phone number, Kriege said she went to the San Francisco Police Department's special victims unit South of Market. Eventually getting in touch with SVU over the phone, she was told to file a police report, which she did February 11 and provided to the B.A.R.

After the police report was filed, SVU and SFPD did not get back in touch with Kriege, she said.

When asked, SFPD Public Information Officer Niccole Pacchetti told the B.A.R., "We are unable to locate an incident report with the information you have provided." When asked about SVU not getting back to Kriege, SFPD told the B.A.R. that a computer automated dispatch number is not enough to find a documented incident to refer to.

Kriege said she ran into San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin on February 21 after a meeting of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and told him about her plight; Peskin, she said, was upset at what he heard and asked her to contact his office. The office subsequently told Kriege that because the house is in Supervisor Hillary Ronen's district, she should contact Ronen's office.

Kriege said that she "never got anything" from Ronen's office after calling.

Peskin's office did not respond to a request for comment for this report as of press time.

Santiago Lerma, a legislative aide with Ronen's office, stated to the B.A.R. that "I have not received any phone calls regarding this. I have sent emails to [Department of Public Health], HSH [Homelessness and Supportive Housing], and the mayor's office about this issue and so far I don't have any information. I just contacted the mayor's Office of Transgender Initiatives and so far have not heard back. I am happy to share any information once I hear anything."

Eventually, on March 9, Kriege was informed in a letter physically handed to her by staff that she would have to leave by April 8.

On March 15, Kriege complained to the Shelter Monitoring Committee, which she said informed her it does not have regulatory oversight of the house. However, the day after her public remarks at the committee's meeting, MOHCD received the complaint and ordered the investigation opened.

Pau Crego, the executive director of the city's Office of Transgender Initiatives, told the B.A.R. that his office does not have oversight over the program.

"The Office of Transgender Initiatives does not issue any grants, so we are not in charge of oversight, compliance, or reviewing complaints for any city-funded programs," Crego told the B.A.R.

When asked March 28 if he or his office has any more comment on this case, Crego did not respond as of press time.

Kriege said she intends to stay at the house. She said she has health problems that moving would exacerbate.

"Who do these people think they are?" she asked. "Then they go out and march for people's rights? It's disgusting. And San Francisco is a sanctuary city, a haven of protection?"

While MOHCD said it had forwarded the complaint to St. James' executive director, the website of the nonprofit has none listed. Stanley confirmed to the B.A.R. that O'Shea is the "acting/interim executive director."

St. James had told the B.A.R. in 2021 it'd be moving forward without an executive director because it wanted to embrace "a new horizontal leadership structure." Its last permanent executive director, Toni Newman, resigned in February of 2020 after deciding to move back to Southern California, as the B.A.R. reported at the time.

MOHCD funds the Our Trans Home initiative to the tune of $900,000 per year, including funding of the Bobbi Jean Baker House "and a team of housing navigators that provide housing stability case management to program participants," Stanley told the B.A.R.

"All city-funded nonprofits are required to have grievance policies and procedures in place," Stanley stated. "We work closely with the city attorney and controller's offices to ensure grantees are held to these policies, including those mandated through the whistleblower program."

Kriege told the B.A.R. that she officially complained to St. James at the March 9 meeting. She said she was reluctant to do so earlier, concerned the nonprofit would "cover up [its] tracks."

A transgender woman has complained she's being told to vacate her transitional housing provided by St. James Infirmary after alleging sexual retaliation by some of the agency's staff.

In an on the record interview, Ms. Kriege gave the reporter the incorrect date for when she was to be evicted. It is April 8. This article has been corrected.

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