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.
It’s hard for many to imagine not having the little, everyday things like a toothbrush or soap, but many of the guests at St. Anthony’s go without such basic toiletries all too often. This can lead to low self-esteem and may increase the risk of health issues. Everyone deserves the basics to feel human, so we need your help.
By donating unused, travel-sized toiletries we can put together “emergency hygiene kits” or “birthday bags” for people in need. Get creative, host a “bubble bash” or make it a competition to see how many hygiene items your organization can raise. Think about going one week without brushing your teeth. Put a smile on someone’s face, donate today! read more…
Vicki B started volunteering at St. Anthony’s in September of 2008, but she knew well before that that she wanted to! Vicki, just like her father before her, carries a special devotion to St. Anthony. When Vicki retired from her teaching career, she put on her apron in the St. Anthony’s Dining Room. When she first started, the Dining Room was still in its original location at 45 Jones Street—the transformed underground garage where volunteers like Vicki helped to serve more than 38 million meals by the time we moved into our temporary location, 150 Golden Gate in Feb of 2012. Two and a half years later in the fall of 2014, Vicki moved with us again to serve our dear guests out of the new St. Anthony’s Dining Room at 121 Golden Gate.
Vicki’s one of the “full circle crew”—45 Jones, to 150 Golden Gate, and back right above the original— to 121 Golden Gate. Vicki was kind enough to give me a few moments of her time away from the serving line to share some of her thoughts about volunteering in the Dining Room.
“When I first started, my family was a little concerned about the neighborhood, but they’ve learned from me that the people are wonderful…’There but for the grace of God go I…’ I wanted to give back, to do a little something. And it makes us (volunteers) happy to help! I’ve done everything—bussing, bringing the trays…My favorite is to be on the serving line: seeing the people, their smiles…”
For his first birthday party, friends & family were asked to bring boxes of cereal to help St. Anthony’s pantry provide food to our homeless & low-income neighbors.
Cheers to Jacob’s parents for kicking off his 2nd year with this thoughtful gift to our guests.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day from St. Anthony’s Dining Room! To celebrate, we’re serving up a delicious stew of potatoes, carrots, onions and parsley, straight from the Emerald Isle.
“May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all your heart might desire!”—Irish blessing
The huge amount of freezer space in our new Dining Room allows us to accept more donations and keep them fresh longer, so all the extra holiday turkeys we received from our donors will serve hungry San Franciscans for many meals to come.
Turkey and mashed potatoes, turkey enchiladas, turkey pot pie, oh my! Check out this month’s delicious menu.