Volunteer your time through the Earn-a-Bike program and they'll give you the frame, parts, and skills to build your own bike for free.
But even in these hard economic times, there is one purchase I wouldn't skimp on: spend the $30 $45 for a good U-lock, preferably with a cable for securing the wheels. Then you're all set, ready to sell your car, ditch the bus, and learn how easy, cheap, fast, efficient, and fun it is to bicycle in this 49-square-mile city. (Steven T. Jones)
When money's tight, healthcare tends to be one of the first costs we cut. But that can be a bad idea, because skimping on preventive care and treatment for minor issues can lead to much more expensive and serious (and painful) health issues later. Here is our guide to Bay Area institutions, programs, and clinics that serve the under- and uninsured.
One of our favorite places is the Women's Community Clinic (2166 Hayes, 415-379-7800, www.womenscommunityclinic.org), a women-operated provider open to anyone female, female-identified, or female-bodied transgender. This awesome 10-year-old clinic offers sexual and reproductive health services from Pap smears and PMS treatment to menopause and infertility support to any SF, San Mateo, Alameda, or Marin County resident, and all on a generous sliding scale based on income and insurance (or lack thereof). Call for an appointment, or drop in on Friday mornings (but show up at 9:30 a.m. because spots fill up fast).
A broader option (in terms of both gender and service) is Mission Neighborhood Center (main clinic at 240 Shotwell. 415-552-3870, www.mnhc.org, see Web site for specialty clinics). This one-stop health shop provides primary, HIV/AIDS, preventive, podiatry, women's, children's, and homeless care to all, though its primary focus is on the Latino/Hispanic Spanish-speaking community. Insurance and patient payment is accepted, including a sliding scale for the uninsured (no one is denied based on inability to pay). This clinic is also a designated Medical Home (or primary care facility) for those involved in the Healthy San Francisco program.
Contrary to popular belief, Healthy San Francisco (www.healthysanfrancisco.org) is not insurance. Rather, it's a network of hospitals and clinics that provide free or nearly free healthcare to uninsured SF residents who earn at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level (which, at about $2,600 per month, includes many of us). Participants choose a Medical Home, which serves as a first point-of-contact. The good news? HSF is blind to immigration status, employment status, and preexisting medical conditions. The catch? The program's so new and there are so many eligible residents that the application process is backlogged you may have a long wait before you reap the rewards. Plus, HSF only applies within San Francisco.
Some might consider mental health less important than that of the corporeal body, but anyone who's suffered from depression, addiction, or PTSD knows otherwise. Problem is, psychotherapy tends to be expensive and therefore considered superfluous. Not so at Golden Gate Integral Counseling Center (507 Polk. 415-561-0230, www.goldengatecounseling.org), where individuals, couples, families, and groups can get long- and short-term counseling for issues from stress and relationships to gender identity, all billed on a sliding scale.
Other good options
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (450 Connecticut, 415-282-9603, actcm.edu).