Every Friday morning at 9 o’clock, a volunteer who would like to be known simply as the Laundry Lady takes up to 5 of our guests and helps them get one load of laundry done at a nearby Laundromat. In speaking with her, it’s very easy to see how fierce of an advocate she is for our guests and for residents of the Tenderloin in general. As a volunteer with Lava Mae, a mobile shower service, she noticed that some guests were either putting on or throwing away their dirty clothes after taking a shower, so she came up with the simple but brilliant idea of taking folks to get their laundry done so that people can better achieve “dignity through cleanliness”, in the words of the Laundry Lady.
While speaking with Martin, who frequents our Free Clothing Program and takes advantage of the laundry services every week, it becomes abundantly clear that this is more than just clean clothes; it is a pathway to hope and a stable life, which is everything we are trying to achieve at St. Anthony’s. Martin currently lives on the streets and is looking for affordable housing and stable employment. He first met the Laundry Lady at Boeddeker Park and found that he was able to speak with her about his housing and employment situation. read more…
Memorial Day in St. Anthony’s Dining Room: The Busiest Day of the Year
St. Anthony’s Dining Room is braced to serve up to 3,500 meals on Memorial Day, over a thousand more meals than the average day. One in five of those meals will be served to a Veteran.
Henry, a regular diner at St. Anthony’s, is one of the hundreds of Veterans who will be served that day. Henry served his country in the Marines from 1969 – 1976. Honorably discharged, he struggled to find his way in life after returning back to the United States from the Far East. Henry attributes the disproportionate number of Veterans in the Dining Room to a disconnect between their lives and where they go to receive services.
“What happens to a lot of Veterans I know is that they don’t realize they have all these benefits. I didn’t go to the VA until 1996. I got back from the service in 1976. A lot of Veterans get disconnected. They put you back in society to survive on your own.” read more…
Anthony Faber takes one day at a time. He’s grateful for everything he has and tries his best not to take things for granted. He has lived in the Tenderloin since 1999 in a 14 x 14 apartment, that luckily for him includes a small kitchen. Anthony used to be a programmer in the private sector, but lost his job when his disability became too much to bear in the working environment. Now his only source of income comes from Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the form of an $889 check each month. He pays $863 a month for rent.
Let’s do the math
$889 – $863 = $26
Anthony is left with $26 to live on for an entire month. The safety net is stretched so tight that for someone like Anthony, making even a $5 hole in it reduces his income by entire 25%. read more…
May is an exciting month for state-level advocacy for policies affecting low-income and homeless Californians. St. Anthony’s is tracking California legislation to:
- Improve public assistance programs like SSI/SSP, CalFresh, and CalWORKs
- Expand funding for affordable housing in California
- Support low-income working Californians
- Address the human rights of homeless Californians
- Address housing and health needs of incarcerated Californians
- Expand MediCal and health insurance coverage to all Californians, regardless of immigration status
On a sunny day in February, a long line of guests streamed through the doors of St. Anthony’s new Dining Room, eagerly awaiting a hearty meal of oven roasted chicken cacciatore. One floor below, residents of St. Anthony’s Fr. Alfred Center for addiction recovery were prepping for the next day’s meal of red beans and rice. Every day, these residents participate in St. Anthony’s Job Training Program, feeding thousands of low-income San Franciscans while learning valuable skills and earning their Food Handler Certification for California.
On this particular morning, hundreds of containers of Organic Girl lettuce were stacked neatly on a stainless steel counter. John, a participant in the Job Training Program, was rattling off numbers, eyeing the stacks of lettuce and estimating how many barrels he would need for 3,000 single serving portions.
St. Anthony’s Job Training Program introduces participants like John to the challenges of working in a fast paced, restaurant-like environment while simultaneously addressing the roller coaster of emotions that come with battling addiction.
Scribbling on the outside of the box, he jotted down a few numbers and murmured, “6 cases, 50 boxes, 20 containers, 3 barrels…I need 110 containers of lettuce.”
Behind him, Eric, a graduate of the program, now a prep chef, glanced around the spacious kitchen at pallets of onions, carrots, pears, apples, and racks of donated Valentine’s Day desserts stacked 10 feet high.
“Today’s prep is light. We’ll start with the lettuce, move on to dice 50 pounds of peppers and zucchini, 2,000 onions, 360 pounds of cornbread, and 600 tortilla shells.”
This is a story about a guest in our Dining Room who I met recently. What she had to say during our brief conversation opened my eyes to what life is like as a homeless woman on the streets of San Francisco.
Jane has walked around San Francisco, picking flowers as she goes, putting them around her hat for years now after deciding that living on the streets was better than staying in an abusive environment at home. The flowers are a way to help keep her looking “bright” and “fresh” even when she hasn’t showered in days. They help to mask the bad odors that suffocate particular neighborhoods. “The sweet aroma of the flowers constantly swirls around me, helping me forget where I am.”
Most days, the only time Jane eats is when she is at St. Anthony’s because she can eat until she’s full. “I stuff myself here so that I can save the little bits of money I make panhandling to buy a nice cup of coffee at Starbucks,” Jane told me. Sadly, my mind immediately jumped to judgment, but she interrupted my critical thoughts as she continued. “When I get there, I go into the restroom and splash some water on my face and smooth out my hair enough to look somewhat presentable. Then I get a coffee and I sit there, soaking up each minute, because it’s the only time I get to feel like a normal person again.” read more…
“I was treated like dirt. No consideration. Like a piece of garbage that you would discard. Irrelevant and unimportant. They had no sense of compassion.” Angel McLain on her experience being homeless
Last Tuesday, St. Anthony’s joined advocates from across the state at a hearing of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. The Committee was hearing a bill, SB 608 (Liu) that would decriminalize rest: sitting, sleeping, and lying down. Unfortunately, laws that make rest in public space a criminal activity are prevalent across California. A recent report from UC Berkeley School of Law studied 58 California cities that collectively make up 75% of the state’s homeless population. They found that every city they studied used local laws that criminalize sitting, standing, sleeping, or resting in public spaces as a response to homelessness.
Personal testimony is often more powerful than even the most thoroughly researched statistics. Angel McLain, a formerly homeless woman, shared her story about being criminalized for sleeping or resting while homeless in the East Bay. (Watch her testify here.) She spoke about the indignity of being criminalized for being homeless and she also mentioned that the criminal history that she “earned” as a result of being homeless kept her from qualifying from affordable housing. She currently lives in a hotel where she pays $800 of her $889 monthly income for rent.
In the end, SB 608 was withheld from a vote. Since the committee members did not vote on the bill, it is not officially “dead”, but remains in committee and can be revisited next year. To stay updated on our advocacy efforts, including our work on housing and homelessness, health care, work and income, and hunger, sign up to receive our advocacy email alerts.
It’s that time of the year – time to get ready for Hunger Action Day!
Hunger Action Day is an annual advocacy day in Sacramento where we come together to talk to our elected officials about hunger in California and how to address it. Anyone who is interested in anti-hunger advocacy is welcome to attend. We hope to have participants from across the St. Anthony’s community: our staff, guests, volunteers, donors, and neighbors.
This year, we’ll be talking to our elected officials about the following anti-hunger issues:
- The need for a state budget that addresses hunger and poverty in California.
- Increasing grants for SSI/SSP recipients (low-income seniors and people with disabilities) so that they can better afford basic necessities like food, housing, clothing, and hygiene items.
- Improving the CalFresh (food stamps) and CalWORKs (welfare to work) programs so that everyone who is eligible can receive assistance.
- Increasing funding for the state emergency food assistance program.
- Addressing local laws in California that make it illegal to share or distribute food in public spaces.
If you’re interested in joining us, please register for our Hunger Action Day training, which will be on Wednesday April 29 at 2:15 pm at 150 Golden Gate Avenue. If you are unable to make the training but still want to join us for Hunger Action Day on May 13, please email Skyler McNulty, Social ACTion Program Coordinator, or call her at 415-592-2786.
Those who’ve read all the kind and great things said about Lon Simmons, the former broadcaster for the Giants, A’s, and 49ers will not be surprised to know that his compassion and goodness was expressed each month through a generous donation to support the work of St. Anthony’s.
Lon took care of all of us who couldn’t get to the game and listened over the airwaves. For decades and right up to the present, he made sure that the poorest among us also listened to the game after having shared a nutritious meal in our Dining Room.
Join us at San Francisco City Hall on April 30 for Serving Hope, a benefit to celebrate & support St. Anthony’s work restoring health, hope, and human dignity.