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As the Executive Director of St. Anthony’s I often find myself speaking on behalf of the people whom we serve in an effort to ensure that their perspectives are understood. However, it is my belief that it is always better to hear from them directly, in their own words. They feel respected when they are listened to, and we hear their voices more clearly—both their passion and their plight. So, in this spirit, I am happy to share with you the observations of some of our guests about an issue that is important and sometimes difficult to talk about.
For the next five weeks we will be sharing stories from people in our community who, through lack of housing, do not have access to bathrooms, showers, laundry and garbage services. These stories are an opportunity for us to get a glimpse of what it is like to go without access to basic necessities that most of us take for granted.
Follow us on Facebook to read these stories as they are posted and to have the opportunity to join the conversation.
Peace and All Good,
By Barry Stenger, Executive Director of St. Anthony’s
For seven decades, guided by the teachings and example of this city’s patron, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony Foundation has served those who are poor and homeless in San Francisco. When Francis walked among the poor and the marginalized of 13th century Italy, he did not see problems to be solved, nor morally depraved individuals to be avoided—he saw brothers and sisters who revealed to him God’s abundant love.
Francis pinpointed his conversion to that moment when he was able to climb down off of his horse and embrace the moral outcasts of his day: those suffering from leprosy. Medieval society believed leprosy was caused by moral failure. Today, with the help of medicine, we know that leprosy is caused by Hansen’s disease—a sickness, not a sin.
Every day, on the sidewalks of the Tenderloin and in the alleys and bathrooms of our programs, our sisters and brothers struggling with addiction inject drugs, openly and in public. What other options have they but to use the curbside, the doorway or the park bench? When we consider their plight not as the wages of sin but as the ravages of the disease of addiction, we must ask the Franciscan question: how do we embrace the moral outcasts of our day? When Fr. Alfred, our founder, opened the Dining Room in 1950, he was just as concerned about sharing a meal in a way that respected the inherent dignity of those who were hungry as he was about meeting basic nutritional needs. He used to insist: “It’s not a soup kitchen, it’s a Dining Room!”
In that spirit, I invite you to read about what some of my fellow leaders of nonprofits in the Tenderloin are thinking about those who have to deal with their addiction in ways that deny their worth and push them further toward disgrace and death. You may also like to read an interview with one of our guests, Sandra, pictured above, who speaks candidly about the impact of addiction on her life.
If you have any questions about this or any other issue please do get in touch with us by calling 415-592-2736 or emailing community@StAnthonySF.org
Update May 22, 2017: A task force was launched by the City to examine hard reduction issues. Watch Barry speak at the launch below.
Our winter shelter isn’t just a place of refuge in adverse weather conditions, it’s also an opportunity to move towards greater stability. In the first 30 days our shelter was open, 259 people stayed with us overnight who otherwise would have been out on the streets.
Our shelter is designed to increase stability for those we serve as we have on-site social workers, medical clinic staff, clean clothing, hot meals, and availability to showers via our partnership with Lava Mae. With these added services, we’ve seen our guests take first steps towards stability.
Check out the statistics we’ve gathered and learn about how our shelter is helping homeless San Franciscans reach stability.
Carlos has been coming to our winter shelter for one month now—he has been homeless for two years.
What does he think of St. Anthony’s facility? “It’s clean. People are respectful. The staff is respectful…I’m very grateful for this place being here—especially when it’s raining,” said Carlos.
As winter swings into high gear and San Francisco endures severe rain and wind, homeless men and women have very few choices for refuge. City shelters are oversubscribed and there are simply not enough spaces to go around.
Our shelter provides a safety net, without which our guests would be left to fend for themselves. It promises hope and fosters community spirit—housing 60 guests per night and supplying basic necessities like hot meals, clean clothing, personal care supplies, and access to medical and social work services.
We work hard to create a calm, welcoming atmosphere at the shelter. “Everybody knows everybody and they know their space,” says Carlos. “You’ve got to treat people the way you expect to be treated. You’ve got to give respect to get it,” he adds.
Our shelter provides vital additional support to our most vulnerable neighbors. St. Anthony’s receives no public funds for our work feeding, clothing, and sheltering the needy. We rely entirely on our wonderful team of donors and volunteers to make it happen.
The Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or “Obamacare”) has been an important advance in health care policy for St. Anthony’s guests, allowing homeless Dining Room clients, single adults with disabilities who find support through our Social Work Center, and Fr. Alfred Center residents who are rebuilding their lives after struggling with addiction, to access the medical care they need.
Should Congress eliminate the Affordable Care Act, California would lose $16 billion in federal Medicaid funding, eliminating coverage to 3.5 million low-income Californians, including St. Anthony’s guests. This would be due to the loss of the federally-funded “Medicaid expansion”, which allows low-income adults who previously were not eligible for Medicaid (called “Medi-Cal” in California) to be able to receive health care through the program. Should the Medicaid expansion end, 78,000 San Franciscans, including homeless people, low-wage workers, and people who are unemployed, would lose access to health coverage through Medi-Cal.
How can we stand up to protect health care for the St. Anthony’s community? The answer to this question is simple: we need to engage with our elected officials and encourage our friends and family members to do the same. Here are a few things we can do:
Sign up for St. Anthony’s advocacy email alerts here and we will let you know when it’s time to get in touch with your elected officials. We will send advocacy alerts with information about the latest political news, and a link to a simple online form that makes it easy to send an email to your Congressional representatives.
Call your member of Congress. Use the number for the Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121, and the operator can connect you to your Senators and Representative. Not sure who represents you? Click here for the U.S. House of Representatives or here for the U.S. Senate. You can search for your representative by zip code or by state at each site.
Share your story. Health Access California, a statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, is collecting stories from people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. Click here if you’d like to share your story with them.
Please feel free to contact Colleen Rivecca, St. Anthony’s Advocacy Program Lead with any questions about advocacy at St. Anthony’s.
Take a moment—consider what your life would be like without hygiene products. Unimaginable! Believe it or not, many homeless and low-income women in our community do not have access to feminine hygiene products. These items are requested at food pantries and shelters, yet organizations often do not have enough in stock.
All women deserve access to basic feminine hygiene items, period. You can help!
When asked why people addicted to drugs use them in the street, St. Anthony’s guest Sandra looks incredulous. It’s the worst option, she says, but “if you don’t have any other place to do it, what can you do?”
Sandra has been visiting the Dining Room for more than fifteen years. It has been a beacon of stability in a turbulent life on the streets. She is a likeable, approachable and intelligent person who is keenly aware of the toll that drug abuse has taken on her, her friends and her community.
When passers-by see addicts use drugs, she says, they are “seeing someone at their lowest point.”
“That’s the last of your dignity. To be out there in front of everybody…it’s bad enough living day-to-day, when people already frown on you, that just really puts the icing on the cake.” For some years St. Anthony’s has monitored contentious proposals to take drug use off the streets and into facilities where addicts can receive advice, access medical help, counseling and more.
Meet Michael C—a man in recovery after a longtime addiction to drugs. His story:
My first experience with St. Anthony’s was when I was homeless. I would come here and eat. I was like a ghost. I was embarrassed I was getting food given to me.
I’ve been with the Fr. Alfred Center for 13 months. Living in the program gives you time out in your life where you can really focus on things you need to work on.
My use of meth and my ability to lie to myself allowed me to break into offices to steal whatever I could find to support my habit. I finally got caught and I was scared. I was given the opportunity to go through drug court. They take all of your charges and they’ll excuse them. The financial aspect of it, they’ll get rid of it for you. I went through the Father Alfred Program because I was homeless and I needed a place to live. They offered me a live/work environment.
Christmas is a time of festivities and appreciation of family, friends, and life’s blessings. At St. Anthony’s, we try to make sure our guests feel connected and contented over the holidays too.
Our Christmas celebration brings our tight-knit community together – here, everyone is welcome to join our table and eat a delicious meal in a warm, dignified environment.
This year we teamed up with the Indiana Hoosiers football squad to pass out gifts, serve meals, and share stories with our guests. Christmas lunch this year included chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato pie, and hot chocolate.
One of our guests, Leah, said, “At St. Anthony’s, Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s like your family doing something for you because they know you don’t have a lot of money.”
Thank you to everyone who helped make this celebration possible for our guests!
Are you passionate about making San Francisco a city where all persons flourish? Do you care deeply about issues of hunger, homelessness, health care access and income equality?
Do you like talking about policy and politics, sharing ideas, and planning events?
If so, St. Anthony’s Advocacy Committee wants to meet you!
St. Anthony’s Advocacy Committee takes action to address the issues of injustice (lack of shelter, affordable housing, health care, and adequate income) that trap too many of our brothers and sisters in a cycle of poverty that perpetuates an ongoing need for direct assistance.
We’re seeking new members who meet the following criteria:
- A passion and excitement for effecting change in local policy to benefit San Francisco’s neediest
- An interest in the work of St. Anthony’s and its role in the San Francisco community
- Availability to attend in-person meetings once per month and willingness to contribute/communicate semi-frequently outside of meetings
- Professional or volunteer experience or connections in policy, politics, communications, outreach, or advocacy
St. Anthony’s Advocacy Committee values diversity of background and experience, and welcomes new members with a deep personal connection to its areas of focus.
Please email Advocacy Committee member Emily Salvaterra at email@example.com if interested.