Joe’s Story

Staff Spotlight: Joe’s Story

Joe Klocek once had a promising career in standup comedy. He’d gotten his start in the 90s, performing at San Francisco clubs like Cobb’s and the Punch Line. He went on to open for comedians like Dave Chapelle, and was even invited to do a two-month residency at a comedy club in Shanghai, China. But as he refined his skills onstage, his life offstage was falling apart. Addictions to drugs and alcohol were ruining his relationships, draining his bank account, and threatening his career.

“I started to lose the big stuff and my life got smaller and smaller,” Joe says.

He lost his car, his phone, and numerous gigs. His girlfriend told him he had to find a new place to stay and he felt his will to live falter.

Joe needed help and was willing to give rehab a shot. But he doubted there was a program out there that would meet his criteria: it had to be long-term, it had to teach marketable skills (after 20 years in standup comedy, he had few), and it had to be free. A Google search proved him wrong. As it turned out, there was one such program: St. Anthony’s Father Alfred Center.

It was tough at first. Detoxing in a new place surrounded by strangers, Joe says he didn’t sleep for a month. But the structured, supportive environment at Father Alfred Center kept him busy and engaged. At the time, men in recovery gained work experience in the St. Anthony’s dining room. When Joe began working there, he discovered a new sense of gratitude, responsibility, and pride.

“You could see people moving through the line who had profound mental, emotional, and physical issues. And they’re homeless. I realized that I was lucky. And I was part — a small part — of this thing that’s helping.”

After completing the program at Father Alfred Center, Joe stayed on in the Dining Room as a dishwasher. While there, he got to know David Bransten from St. Anthony’s Workforce Development program, which helps prepare men in recovery for the job market. David was planning to expand the program’s educational offerings and was looking for help. He needed someone who knew what rehab was like, but could also command the stage in front of a tough crowd — someone, in other words, just like Joe.

Two years later, Joe works as a career planner, teaching a holistic curriculum that includes classes on resume-building and resilience. While he still does comedy once a week (mostly on Zoom these days), he’s found that his most gratifying performances are the ones he does at St. Anthony’s, working with the men at Father Alfred Center.

“At the end of the day with those classes, I feel like I float home. It’s just so much more fulfilling.”

Please help St. Anthony’s continue to provide addiction recovery services available at no cost, by making a generous gift today!

Meet the Doctors

St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic is privileged to have many seasoned, thoughtful doctors who care deeply for our patients. Today, we’d like to introduce you to two of them!

Dr. Crawford

Dr. Brooks Crawford: Ophthalmology

Dr. Brooks Crawford retired from private practice six years ago and brought all of the equipment from one of his exam rooms to St. Anthony’s, supplying us with the expensive ophthalmology equipment needed for examination. He comes to the Clinic every week to treat and inspect the eyes of patients. Throughout his career, he would never turn someone away for lack of funds. “A lot of doctors don’t take care of Medical patients because they pay so little,” Dr. Crawford explains. “I did, but it would cost more to send the bill out than what I would get, so I just saw them for free.”

This practice and moral commitment come from watching his father and other doctors to do the same. Dr. Crawford also credits his father for his work ethic.

“He put himself through medical school by driving a horse-drawn milk truck,” Dr. Crawford recalls. “He had to get up really early in the morning — 4 or 5 o’clock — because if he didn’t get a fast horse, he wouldn’t get to school on time.”

Dr. Crawford is deeply appreciative of the Medical Clinic’s wonderful nurses. Though he is in the process of learning Spanish for the first time, he is grateful to rely on our nurses who “translate beautifully” and “have been fabulous, always anticipating the needs of anyone who comes in.”

Dr. Rizzo

Dr. Mario Rizzo: Podiatry

Dr. Mario Rizzo started volunteering at the St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic when he graduated from podiatry school in 1979, and he is still here today. Thanks to a donor-funded expansion, Dr. Rizzo was given a salaried position three years after starting to volunteer. He focuses on patients’ feet. Many of our guests do not have comfortable, safe places to sit or lie down, so they are forced to spend much of their time standing and walking through the city to access services.

“The most common thing I see is heel pain because the plantar fascia gets stretched out,” says Dr. Rizzo. “People are on their feet a lot and they don’t have good shoes, but we can treat them with taping, orthotics, injections, or medications.”

Every doctor on staff makes a difference not only in their medical care, but in how they treat our guests — with warmth, dignity, and unconditional respect.

“It’s been an amazing experience working with the other doctors who come here,” says Dr. Rizzo. “They have a passion for this kind of work and they love the patients. Not all are religious, but all of us want to try to help people out. We have shared values.”

Dr. Rizzo was raised Catholic and his work does come from a place of faith. He was drawn to St. Anthony’s as a Catholic organization.

“We were raised to have empathy for the poor and to help out the poor, so it was part of my core,” says Dr. Rizzo. “It was a way for me to live my faith in reality.”

Working in a Clinic like ours has had a profound effect on Dr. Rizzo. “Every once in a while, you can see Christ in the patients,” he said. “They have such a big heart. They’re really loving, and a lot of that comes out in their well wishes for you.”

Please support St. Anthony’s in making services like the Medical Clinic available to all, by making a generous gift today!

Greg’s Story

Greg's Story

How is someone experiencing homelessness expected to pay $30,000 in taxes to the IRS? When St. Anthony’s guest Greg first visited our Tech Lab, he was deep in debt, newly unemployed, and had recently been evicted. He was struggling to keep up with the many curveballs life had thrown his way, and couldn’t find a way to balance it all.

It is difficult for individuals experiencing homelessness to maintain stability in their lives due to the uncertainty that surrounds their day-to-day necessities. Greg was able to find a tax attorney to help with his case, but he still lacked the resources to provide his attorney with the necessary information to proceed. St. Anthony’s Tech Lab provided access to a computer, internet, printing, faxing and scanning, all for free.

“The Tech Lab was fantastic,” Greg says. “The staff helped me send important documents to my attorney, sometimes by fax or other methods. You know, these are simple things but I had nowhere to access them, and they were what ultimately helped get me out of that debt.”

Over the course of a few months, Greg was able to provide his attorney with all the necessary documents, and consequently, the IRS reduced Greg’s penalties and outstanding debt from $30,000 to $300! Greg has since found affordable housing in San Francisco, paid off his debt, and is employed full-time again. Though he may no longer need the Tech Lab’s services, he won’t forget his friends on Golden Gate Avenue.

“The Tech Lab helped get me out of a really difficult period in my life,” Greg says.

We were honored to help!

Please support St. Anthony’s in making services like the Tech Lab available to all, by making a generous gift today!

Letisia’s Story

Letisía's Story

We met Letisía in January, when she called to inquire about our Free Clothing Program. The mother of six had been referred by a social worker at the Stanford University Clinic, where her one-year-old daughter is receiving treatment for gastrointestinal complications that require her to use a feeding tube daily. Letisía is originally from Guatemala but fled the country due to its civil unrest and has been living in San Mateo for 10 years. She told us that she hadn’t asked for help before because she and her husband were working and able to provide for their family.

However, since the start of the pandemic, she’s had to stay home and take care of her sick baby, as well as her other three children, who are adapting to online learning. Life has been even more stressful lately because Letisía’s husband doesn’t have steady employment, and they’ve been unable to pay rent.

“St. Anthony’s is a huge relief. If someone needs help, you help them and treat them with dignity. You don’t discriminate.”

When Letisía called our Free Clothing Program, our Service Lead Marcellus Ducreay answered and immediately stepped into action. Not only did he help organize clothes and hygiene items for all six family members, he also connected her to our Resource Center where they were able to provide the family with several bags of fresh food and canned goods. Letisía will be returning to St. Anthony’s every couple months to restock and is feeling more optimistic about the future.

Please support St. Anthony’s in making services like the Free Clothing Program available to all, by making a generous gift today!

Aundre’s Story

Aundre's Story

Throughout my whole pregnancy I lived outside. I felt like people couldn’t avert their eyes quick enough. It was worse than not being seen — it was like looking at you was painful. You feel like a ghost. It’s the craziest thing in the world. You feel like there’s real people and then there’s you over here.

But it gave me something to care about. I really started trying to eat better, to make sure that I was getting full meals. I was drawn to St. Anthony’s because out of anywhere I’d go, this is the place where I’d feel the most respected and cared for. You guys had great meals and really sweet people serving them. It was special. It wasn’t just the food; it was being seen. You’d come here and feel like a real person.

You guys actually gave me the first toy my daughter ever had. My daughter was born in January, and in December, you had a Christmas thing here and I got a toy for her. It was this little clown thing with four pieces that you put together for a baby. It was really a special moment to have that. It made me feel better. I thought, Okay, now I’ve got something for my baby, I can do this.

When I was six months pregnant, my water broke. I went into the hospital and I was in there for a couple of days. They were going to give me a C-section. I got steroids to pump up my daughter’s lungs because she was going to be premature. But in those two days, I re-sealed. They said that was really rare and that I was lucky. They said my daughter was really smart, that she was going to stay in there. They kept me in the hospital as long as they could, which was a couple weeks. Then I went back out and my pregnancy went as normal.

I’m very fortunate. My daughter was born perfect. And once I was in the hospital, pretty much as I was giving birth, they brought in social workers — all of the sudden, I had a whole team around me. I was able to call and reconnect with family. They stepped up and let me stay with them for the first couple of months until I was able to get services and then got my own place. My daughter’s dad stayed on the street for a couple months after that, but then he came and joined us. And then we had another kid.

My daughter came and saved my life. I cared so much about her that I was willing to do anything to stay with her. She’s 25 now. She’s had an exciting life. When she turned 18, she just started traveling. She’s traveled and worked in so many places in the world — from Hawaii to Colombia. And she did it all by herself. She’s so brave! I was a wreck. But she’s home now, managing a restaurant and deciding what she wants to do. She used to want to be a neonatal nurse, and now she wants to be an ultrasound technician for babies. She has a real interest in babies.”

Please support St. Anthony’s in making services like the Dining Room available to all, by making a generous gift today!

Building Resumes and Resilience

Resumes and Resiliance

Mac was nervous. He’d spent the last week working on his resume and making sure his cover letter was perfect. Wearing a red collared shirt, he settled in behind the computer screen, where his interviewerers waited in a virtual conference room. His resume included 12 years of working as a chef — followed by a two-year employment gap.

“So Mac,” the interviewers said, “tell us about you.”

At that moment, Mac was a trainee in St. Anthony’s Workforce Development program, which helps job seekers with barriers to employment. His questioners were not human resource specialists, but corporate volunteers who’d signed up to conduct mock interviews. In another room, the other members of his cohort watched. Nick had performed custodial work since he was 16; Armand was a rigger, who’d once set up the stage for the legendary rapper Nas; Reuben was a massage therapist, who’d daubed lavender oil inside his mask that morning to calm his nerves. All four trainees were clients at Father Alfred Center, St. Anthony’s residential recovery program.

Also on the call were their teachers, members of the Workforce Development team, who took notes and hoped their students would remember what they’d discussed in class. The mock interviews were part of Workforce Development’s new three-week training program, designed to build resumes and resilience. Not only do trainees learn how to navigate the job market, they explore what it means to bring your best self to work and how to to do it day after day.

This is cutting-edge stuff in the world of job preparation, which has traditionally focused more on how to get a job than how to be happy and productive in one. Workforce Development Manager David Bransten says conventional practices tend towards a one-size-fits-all approach that overlooks the individual.

“I can’t ask you to do all of these things when you haven’t identified who you are and what you want. That’s especially true when there’s a history of trauma, which is the case for many in our community.” – David Bransten

To foster personal and professional development, Bransten built a trauma-informed curriculum that emphasizes emotional intelligence. Using the principles of positive psychology, trainees identify their innate strengths and learn how to leverage them when challenges arise. They also take time to consider their values, reflecting on what type of work would be meaningful and emotionally-satisfying. For some, this may be the first opportunity they’ve had to explore their own psyches.

“There’s research and there’s me-search,” says Bransten.

Joe Klocek, who went through the program at Father Alfred Center and is now a career planner with Workforce Development, puts it this way: “They’re allowed to dream a little bit.”

Mindfulness is another critical component. At companies like Apple and Google, mindfulness and meditation trainings teach employees how to effectively engage and manage the full spectrum of thoughts and feelings, from negative to positive. But Bransten worried that these powerful tools were not being shared with the people that needed them most.

“Who is going to benefit from mindfulness more than our community?” he asks.

The training is immersive, entertaining, and experiential in nature. Classes are taught virtually and in person, and feature a mix of presentation and participation. In one activity, a participant hooked up to a VR headset must deactivate a bomb by following the instructions of his or her peers. In another, participants work together to build a cup pyramid — without touching the cups. The final project asks trainees to use the metaphor of a sailboat to reflect on their own lives; a small armada of paper sailboats now sits in the Workforce Development classroom.

So far, five cohorts have completed the new curriculum — four from our Client Safety Services team and one from Father Alfred Center. Eventually, Bransten would like to be able to open the training to other members of the St. Anthony’s community. He’s also working to add an internship component, where trainees can put into practice the skills they’ve learned in class.

“I’ve got my passion and I’m ready to get my career going. I’m ready to become the comeback player of the century.” – Mac

Back in his mock interview, Mac wowed the panel, talking about his love for cooking, leadership skills in the kitchen, and the sriracha aioli he’d developed for a vegan burger joint. When asked if he could handle a fast-paced environment, he said that if he wasn’t working at a fast pace, he didn’t feel like he was working at all. And when asked about the two-year gap on his resume, he answered from the heart. It had been a dark time for him; he’d lost his father and had to seek treatment at Father Alfred Center. There, he’d developed a new sense of gratitude and learned to love himself again. Now, he was looking forward to the brighter future that lay ahead.

A month later, Mac had a real interview with the St. Anthony’s Dining Room. We are very pleased to announce that he’s been hired!

Please support St. Anthony’s in making services like Workforce Development available to all, by making a generous gift today!

Coming Soon: St. Anthony’s Hygiene Hub

Hygiene HubOur Free Clothing Program, already the largest in the city, is about to expand its services. In the coming weeks, we’ll be building a hygiene hub, where guests can shower, use the restroom, and do laundry seven days a week. Using our existing space and infrastructure, we hope to eventually provide 32,000 showers and 20,000 laundered loads annually.

The new facility will meet a critical need, especially for the most vulnerable members of our community. According to a survey, 40% of our unhoused guests (people who have temporary residence at a hotel or shelter) do not have regular, safe access to a shower or a restroom. For our unsheltered guests (people with no roof over their heads) that number is even higher, with 70% unable to access these essential services. Meanwhile, 50% of our unhoused guests and 80% of our unsheltered guests do not have access to laundry.

The hygiene hub is the latest development in St. Anthony’s work to connect our guests with basic water access. Last year, we worked with the City to install a potable water station outside our doors so guests could wash their hands and refill water bottles. When CEO Nils Behnke noticed a guest using the station to wash himself, he realized that more was needed.

“We wanted to find a solution that respects our guests’ humanity,” says Behnke.

The showers and laundry room will be installed right here on the first floor of 150 Golden Gate Avenue. Guests will have 15 minutes to use three unisex showers on a first come, first serve basis. Shower guests will also have access to clothing kits for immediate use, and four washer-dryer machines will be available for folks looking to launder the clothing they already have. Construction is already underway, and we hope to have a pilot program up and running this summer.

At St. Anthony’s, we try to honor the dignity of our guests in all that we do, and the hygiene hub will be no exception. David Watterson, manager of the Free Clothing Program, is heading up the project and will be in charge of the new service. He says his team is committed to creating the best experience possible, taking into account every detail.

“We want to make sure that we’re developing a space that is really nurturing to people,” says Watterson. “It’s not going to be institutional, it’s going to be calm and serene. It’s going to honor people’s dignity.”

Please support St. Anthony’s in making services like the Hygiene Hub available to all, by making a generous gift today!

Women’s Day 2019 at St. Anthony’s

Guest picking outfit
It’s March 8th, Women’s Day. In St. Anthony’s Free Clothing Program, a small group of women look through a rack of clothes from San Francisco brand Marine Layer, then pause to read the quote on a colorful poster: “I am woman phenomenally, phenomenally woman, that’s me.”

Guests and staff sing along to Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman”, and around the corner, other guests sit for make-overs by professional makeup artists, and select from free products donated by cosmetics incubator Kendo Brands. Still others try on ThirdLove bras, or browse the Free Clothing Program’s store with the help of personal shoppers.

Guest holding makeup

A Day for Guests to Treat Themselves

Women’s Day at St. Anthony’s has become a much-anticipated yearly event, when the second floor of 121 Golden Gate Avenue transforms into a haven for women as the Foundation hosts a variety of special events for female-identifying guests.

Guests enjoy a selection of free jewelry, makeup, high-quality clothing, and menstrual products, as well as bra fittings and beauty services. “Our goal is to create a special experience for female-identifying guests in the Tenderloin,” explains Jennifer Henry, Service Coordinator for the Free Clothing Program. “It’s an opportunity for them to feel really special, take their time, and enjoy themselves—with one-on-one care and attention.”

Guest looking for coats on Women's Day

“I’m ready to shop ‘till I drop!” a guest, Marilyn, gleefully exclaims. “I always volunteer at my [local] senior center at this time, but I took today off. Today is for me.”

Many guests feel similarly. The St. Anthony’s Women’s Day events allow them to step into a feeling of sanctuary: a space that was planned just for them, where they feel seen and cared for. The experience is about more than the new products, makeup, and clothes the attendees take home in red bags. “This day is about community,” Jennifer says. “Volunteers come specifically to this event every single year. Guests ask all year if we are going to do Women’s Day. People are invested.”

Other Female-Centric Services

In addition to pampering, guests have the opportunity to visit the Social Work Center, next door to the Clothing Program. On Women’s Day, the Social Work Center offers dedicated drop-in hours for women during which they can meet with a social worker, work on replacing an ID or birth certificate, and learn more about the programs and services St. Anthony’s offers, which can help them every day of the year.

Some of the guests visiting the Free Clothing Program and Social Work Center on March 8th returned on March 16th for the Tech Lab’s Free Coding Workshop for women and female-identifying adults, organized in partnership with nonprofit Techtonica. Women’s Day events span three of St. Anthony’s programs during the same month in this way.

To all the female-identifying guests, donors, volunteers, and friends of the Foundation who love this event as much as we do, we say, “See you next Women’s Day!”


Eggnog Mashed Potatoes

St. Anthony's Eggnog Mashed Potatoes

The guests in St. Anthony’s Dining Room inspire us daily. Faced with struggles, they display resiliency and versatility.

In that same spirit, we share this recipe — and the story behind it. Our chefs were preparing mashed potatoes one day, when they ran out of milk. Searching the pantry for a suitable substitute, they were delighted to discover gallons of donated eggnog that they immediately put to good use.

The joy of the holidays comes from being together. Around your dining room table and ours, people sit side-by-side to share warm, comforting dishes like this one — lifting the spirits of all.

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2018 Fleet Week: U.S. Service Members Volunteer

2018 Fleet Week - U.S. Navy Volunteers at St. Anthony's

St. Anthony’s was honored to host service members for a special day of Fleet Week volunteering again this year, continuing an annual tradition. Fleet Week’s 2018 day of service began with our Justice Education orientation, which highlights the history and characteristics of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood as well as the homeless, low-income, and vulnerable populations that St. Anthony’s programs serve. After the presentation concluded, the Fleet Week volunteers made their way to our Dining Room and Free Clothing Program to begin their volunteering shifts.
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