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When I first visited St. Anthony’s, I immediately felt that it was communal environment. During lunch, I ate with the guests at the hall. Laughing and talking with them, I heard stories about San Francisco in the 60’s, when peace signs and tie-dye shirts were the fad, and a wild road trip from Colorado to California. When I returned back to my school to continue with the retreat, I knew I would never forget my St. Anthony’s experience.
Having a passion for filmmaking, I stumbled upon the White House Student Film Competition. I saw that the topic was about the Impact of Giving Back and I knew that St. Anthony’s would be the perfect topic. I headed down to the Dining Hall with my camera and was inspired by the different people I met, guests, staff, and volunteers.
I made this film not only for the competition, but to showcase all the different stories that make St. Anthony’s the special place that it is. I wanted to be able to document what I saw, a community and a family.
St. Ignatius student, Elizabeth Leong, shares her experience of volunteering in our Dining Room through a beautifully constructed video she created for a competition at the White House. Good luck, Elizabeth, and thank you for sharing!
Daniel Andrade first came to St. Anthony’s in 2012 to volunteer with a group of co-workers. He became an individual volunteer with us in August of 2014. Dan had decided he wanted a career change—he wants to become a social worker. Besides applying to schools, Dan applied to become a skilled volunteer with our Social Worker Center, and we’ve been fortunate to have him 2 days a week serving at SWC’s Info Desk in the Dining Room. The Info Desk is where our Dining Room guests can come to ask about resources beyond food that they’re in need of. As an Info Desk volunteer, Dan interacts directly with Dining Room Guests during our meal service, offering resource materials and referral information for needed services such as shelter, health care, Veteran affairs, and substance abuse recovery.
When Dan started up in August, we were still in our temporary Dining Room at 150 Golden Gate. Dan says the biggest change he’s seen at the Info Desk since the new Dining Room opened is the much improved quality of the experience for the guests. In the temporary Dining Room (because of space limitations), the Info Desk was located in the lobby where our guests would file by it as they were coming in to the Dining Room to eat: “People were HUNGRY!” The exit from the temporary Diner was at the opposite end of the building. “Now that we’re actually inside the Dining Room, the guests come to us AFTER they’ve eaten and are much more relaxed and interested in connecting to additional support resources. “Location! Location! Location!” It does matter.
We were very lucky to include Robert Rees as a volunteer and guest blogger during the first holiday season in the new Dining Room. We hope to feature Robert as an ongoing guest blogger on topics related to social justice, Franciscan values, and other related issues. Robert is a visiting professor of religion at Graduate Theological Union and the University of California, Berkeley; he serves on the board of the Marin Interfaith Council.
by Robert A. Rees, Ph.D.
“We are committed to a healing ministry serving the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of those who are poor. We are called to solidarity with the poor and seek to identify with those we serve, realizing that by sharing in the healing of others, we too are healed.”
–St. Anthony’s Mission Statement
On Thanksgiving morning I took two of my teenage grandsons, Porter and Emmett, to St. Anthony’s in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco to help feed the poor and homeless. We parked in a lot close to St. Anthony’s and walked past a sprawl of people for whom the sidewalk had been (and likely often is) their bedroom. I thought of Jesus’s statement, “The poor you have always with you,” which often I have considered more a condemnation than a statement of inevitably.
As we entered 150 Golden Gate Street to attend an orientation, I thought of the lyrics to the 1936 song, “San Francisco”: “San Francisco, open your golden gate.” For many hundreds of homeless and hungry people every day and for three thousand on this day, St. Anthony’s is a golden gate. For sixty-five years the staff and a host of volunteers have served hot meals to people for whom a hot meal, or even a cold one, is not always assured.
After an introduction by one of the Franciscan friars, Father John, Angelina (Manager of the social ACTion program) recounted the following statistical summary of the meal that we would be serving in the new dining room across the street:
- 3,000 trays of food
- 4,800 pounds of turkey
- 1,3950 pounds of sweet potatoes
- ??? Pounds of yams
- 457 pounds of cranberry sauce
- 4,000 rolls
- 4,000 individual pumpkin pies
Throughout 2014, St. Anthony’s supported bills that would help to address poverty in California, with a specific focus on issues that directly relate to our guests and clients: low-wage workers, undocumented immigrants, CalFresh (food stamps) recipients, homeless people, and people who live in Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels. Click here for a complete list of the California legislation we’ve followed or supported this year.
With the help of our community, including our guests, volunteers, staff, supporters, and policy partners like California Food Policy Advocates, Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Association of Food Banks, and California Partnership, we saw some legislative victories, including the lifting of the drug felon ban, changes to prison release, the Hunger Free Education Opportunities Act, and the Healthy Babies Act of 2014.
Unfortunately, bills to align CalFresh and Medi-Cal, to provide healthcare and food and income assistance to immigrants, to raise California’s minimum wage, to leverage federal dollars available for a “market match” program for low-income Californians to use at farmers’ markets, and to reduce childhood poverty by repealing the CalWORKs “Maximum Family Grant” rule were not successful during this year’s legislative session.
St. Anthony’s is gearing up for the next legislative session by talking to our guests, staff, and community partners about 2015 policy ideas that can help end poverty at home in San Francisco’s Tenderloin and throughout California. We’ll likely pick up where we left off this year on bills that did not make it through the legislature or were vetoed by the Governor. We’ll also be thinking about new ideas and working with our partners to support policies that will support our guests: the homeless, the hungry, people without access to health care, and people who have fallen through the holes in our tattered safety net.
Do you want to be a policy nerd, too? Maybe you just want to raise your voice with us for economic justice and an end to hunger and poverty in our communities. Join us by signing up for our advocacy newsletter and action alerts.
89-year-young volunteer Carmelita served the ceremonial last meal in our temporary Dining Room at 150 Golden Gate Ave. this week. Guests, volunteers, and staff joined her to say goodbye to a space that has served us well for 2 1/2 years, and hello to our bigger, brighter, brand new Dining Room across the street.
Join us in honoring the past, looking to the future, and saying “Hello!” to #TheNewStAnthonys tomorrow morning at our Grand Opening:
When Zendesk, the customer service software company, moved into the rapidly developing mid-Market area adjacent to the Tenderloin, they connected with the neighborhood in a profound way. Their employees volunteer regularly in St. Anthony’s Dining Room. The company donates a portion of the proceeds from one of their products to St. Anthony Medical Clinic. And they helped the Tenderloin Tech Lab develop a mobile web site for low-income people to find the services they need, closest to their location, a project now being expanded upon by other partners and the City of San Francisco.
When Del Seymour got sober and stabilized his life, partly with help from St. Anthony’s, he decided to connect visitors to San Francisco with a community usually omitted from the guidebooks: the poorest people in the city, many of whom live in the Tenderloin. His Tenderloin Walking Tours are now a favorite among readers of The Huffington Post, the New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
When Eric Barrett looked out the window and saw St. Anthony’s Free Clothing Program serving hundreds of low-income residents, he did not content himself with looking on. He called St. Anthony’s and donated some of the stock he’d earned as an engineer at Facebook to support the work he saw. He participated in the work by making a gift.
These are people who bloom where they are planted, who live where they find themselves: across the street, across UN Plaza, across the economic divide. This is also the secret of living that St. Anthony’s guests teach our staff and volunteers every day. Be where you are. Join in. Don’t look the other way. Be part of the miracle.
The Tenderloin, for all its troubles and tragedies, is a vibrant community. Filmmaker Henri Quenette discovered this last year. He was so inspired by the people he met that he made a documentary about the neighborhood, Love me Tenderloin, spotlighting four Tenderloin residents, some of them St. Anthony’s guests, and inspiring others to see the beauty in these streets.
It’s easy for those who do not live or work in the Tenderloin to define the neighborhood by what is missing. We at St. Anthony’s define it by what—and who—is here, and we ensure that we not only connect those in need with stabilizing services, but also that we connect those who share a common dignity as human beings; that we bring together people who would not otherwise have met.
When people connect at St. Anthony’s, they reconnect to the heart of the city. We are so glad that you have connected with this community.
Barry J. Stenger
She was holding her stomach as she approached. I could tell she was a few months pregnant. “I’m really hungry; I’m pregnant, and I’ve run out of food,” she shared with a hint of desperation in her voice. In San Francisco, one in five adults lacks the resources to provide food for themselves or their families. In the Tenderloin that number is as high as one in two.
I continued to listen to her struggles to find adequate and nutritional food. I made sure she was connecting with other resources, CalFresh (food stamps) and Women with Infants and Children (WIC). She was, but like other recipients of these benefits she needed to supplement them with other food program to meet her nutritional needs.
After paying rent she was forced to choose between food and health care. This is a situation that gets played out every day in the Tenderloin. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve heard this story. I’m stationed on Fridays at St. Anthony’s Social Work Center, where I help our guest access our emergency and supplemental food pantry for individuals requiring special nutritional support, seniors, and families.
Her sense of desperation began to fade as I told her she qualified for our supplemental food pantry. Within 20 minutes she was enrolled in our program and walking out the door with two full bags of groceries, and a heart full of gratitude for St. Anthony’s social workers, benefactors and volunteers. As I said good-bye to her my next appointment was coming in. He had a different story, but shared the same need for nutritional food to support his battle with cancer.
Br. Scott Slattum, OFM is a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint Barbara. He is the Assistant Editor of Digital Content for The Way of St. Francis and volunteers with our low-income and homeless guest at St. Anthony Foundation’s Social Work Center.
In the late afternoon of the last Wednesday of July, social ACTion program hosted the first in what we hope will become a series of Justice Education Events. Beyond CompassionFatigue; an Encouraging Conversation featured guest speaker Barry Zevin, MD. Dr. Zevin of the SFDPH has worked with the homeless and impoverished people of the Tenderloin for 25 years. Our event was attended by St. Anthony volunteers and staff, plus a wide range of community members and providers including Shanti, Gubbio Project, Hospitality House, Project Homeless Connect, YWAM, and SF Dept. of Public Health.
Dr. Barry said we need to remember “the bigger picture—homelessness is not only a San Franciscan issue—it’s a national one.” Dr. Barry said that he maintains by “…doing what I do: I’m a doctor”. He balances care for the marginalized by working both in direct care and in policy work. “But”, he said, “I always do some direct care”. He went on to say, disarmingly that his first reaction to the increase of degradation and suffering we all see on the street isn’t always the best. His first (silent) reaction might be “Why is this person in my way?”, but he reminds himself that “each person has a name”. He also takes a year off for every 10 worked. While this latter is not possible for many of us, the commitment to some kind of restorative respite in our lives is possible, even if that’s making some time each week for dancing for example, or for walking on the beach, whatever it may be —the point is to have some dedicated time for personal relaxation and renewal.
Although this event was not about “solutions” or “grievances and divided points of view”, Dr. Zevin said that in order for real change to happen, we need to move toward a family model (of community). He spoke about the experience of talking with older generations about homelessness, and they would always say “Oh, we had a person like that in our town…”, and that person was taken care of by the community.
John Hardin, OFM, Provincial and ED Emeritus of St. Anthony’s once told us that we all need “the three S’s to do this work: some kind of spirituality, self-care, and a sense of humor!” I was reminded of that sage advice as I listened to Dr. Zevin. His advocacy for a “family model of community” brought Francis of Assisi to mind as well. Francis referred to everything and everyone in kindred terms and even beyond human-to-human relationship to include “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon,” and so forth.
We are in this together, as demonstrated by the diversity of attendance at this “Beyond Compassion Fatigue…, and Dr. Barry’s hope for a thriving community of the human family underscores that! Please stay tuned for a follow-up discussion on this initial subject and for Justice Education Events in the future.
Pace e Bene, and here’s to a Healing Home & Community for one and all!
We invite you to celebrate our new space by moving the most essential elements of our meal service – the tray, cup and fork – into our new Dining Room. We need 200 people to set the table (picture a human relay line). For over 60 years, San Franciscans have come together to serve over 40 million meals to people in need, never once missing a meal. Be part of this history as we set the table for the first meal in our brand new Dining Room!
When: Thursday, October 2nd 9:00 am – 10:00 am
Where: 150 Golden Gate Avenue
What: We need 200 people to help move our trays, cups and forks.