St. Anthony’s on a World Stage

St. Anthony’s on a World Stage

In June, St. Anthony’s hosted German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his wife, Elke Büdenbender, and a delegation of high-ranking German officials and cultural dignitaries.   President Steinmeier, who wrote his doctorate of law thesis on homelessness and the traditions and prospects of state intervention to prevent and overcome it, toured our Tech Lab and our Free Clothing Program, taking note of the holistic, interconnected nature of our services and how they work in tandem to recognize every guest as a whole person with rights and dignity.

“Aligned with our core values, we serve people where they are, respecting their needs, goals, hopes and choices. We appreciate that President Steinmeier looks to St. Anthony’s as a model of integrated community solutions to extreme poverty.” – Barry Stenger, Executive Director, St. Anthony’s

Just two days later, at a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, a global spotlight was trained on the growing trend of poverty and wealth inequality in our country when Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations’ expert on extreme poverty and human rights, delivered a report on poverty in the United States.

“Growing inequality and widespread poverty…has deeply negative implications for the enjoyment of civil and political rights by many millions of Americans.” – Philip Alston, United Nations

Professor Alston visited St. Anthony’s late last year, when he was in the Bay Area to gather material for his report. He toured our neighborhood, the Tenderloin, with its encampments of homeless. In a gathering held at St. Anthony’s, Professor Alston heard first-hand our neighbors’ and our guests’ stories of deprivation and desperation, but also those of support and rehabilitation.  In his report, which suggested that extreme poverty undermines the enjoyment of human and civil rights, he made a strong case for how widespread poverty and homelessness are not a societal inevitability:

“At the end of the day, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power.  With political will, it could readily be eliminated.” – Philip Alston, United Nations

In the absence of this political will, St. Anthony’s makes the choice daily to provide services that respect the human rights of all.

We were proud to show Professor Alston and President Steinmeier our work and our world, to contribute to their knowledge, and to bring our Franciscan values of community, personalism, and justice to bear on the global conversation about the link between poverty and human rights.

St. Anthony’s strong and influential voice at these events is made possible by supporters, donors, and advocates like you.  Your energy and passion enable us to keep speaking up, making a difference, and changing lives.  During a time when it is common to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face the human suffering, we are invigorated by the global focus on these issues, and humbled to be studied by the international community as a model of how we, as a people, can harness our power to break the cycle of extreme poverty and inequality.

Today, we are starting a discussion of how, when we dedicate our skills, energy and passion to change the status quo, we create a healthier, stronger, more resilient society that benefits us all. For the next twelve weeks, we’ll be posting about everyday actions you can choose to help alleviate widespread suffering in your community and beyond. We’ll be covering everything from volunteering opportunities, to local and national calls to action, to ways you can maximize your giving and get your friends, families and colleagues involved and engaged.

Father Alfred Boeddeker’s vision—to create a refuge for San Francisco’s poor and marginalized to get nourishment and support, without judgment—was an embodiment of the values we still uphold today, sixty-eight years and millions of guests later.

Our recent interactions with global leaders have been a reminder of how well those Franciscan values have stood the test of time, and what a wonderful framework they provide for the reduction of extreme poverty worldwide.  When we channel those values into a plan of action, we can all choose a future where no one has to sleep on the street; where no schoolchild goes to bed hungry; where families are allowed to remain whole; and where our elderly, disabled, and sick are cared for, not abandoned.

Together, we will see what can happen when we choose to take concrete steps toward a better future.

Stories from our guests: Tommy

8:00 am

“I’ve been trying my best to get off the street. Contacting houses and stuff like that. But nobody wants to rent a place to someone who stinks, or smells bad, or in other words—not to be rude or anything—looks homeless. Because they automatically think that you’re a drug user. Me, I’ve been clean and sober 28 and a half years. I don’t use drugs, but people still put those labels on me. So the city could put the money towards things that we really need like showers, more bathrooms, even recovery centers, where people could get sober. That would help a lot.”

12:00 pm

“It’s really hard. You try going into some of these shelters and 9 times out of 10 they tell you to come back tomorrow or some other day because it’s too filled up. San Francisco needs more bathrooms. They keep telling us not to urinate on the walls, but where is everyone gonna go? There’s no other place.  I try my best to hold it as much as I can. I try to go to the city library. If by chance it’s after hours, then I try to avoid eye contact with everybody. Try to find some place secluded.”

5:00 pm

“If I had a job interview tomorrow, I’d probably stay up all night looking everywhere for some place that I could get cleaned up. It’s like could I find a water fountain here? Could I use the restroom here? Anything to get clean and presentable. For regular people, it’s like 10-15 minutes to get ready to go to work. For homeless people, it takes four or five hours to get ready to do one tiny little thing. Pit Stops, I love those things. The only bad thing is that there are not enough of them. For showers, I try my best to get into Lava Mae at least once or twice a week. But it’s very hard to do because, I mean, it’s usually really packed with other people trying to get a shower.”

Every San Franciscan deserves the ability to properly maintain their personal hygiene. Add your name to our petition.

Stories from our guests: Mirabel & Alex

8:00 am

“I’ve been homeless for about six months. For him it’s been about four.  We’ve been living on the street in a homeless community. I feel safe there because I speak English well and can defend myself, but he says that there are times when he doesn’t feel safe. We try to keep our community clean and our neighbors don’t complain, but it’s hard to do. We don’t have any facilities, especially at night. We do our necessities right on the street and then have to get rid of it. There isn’t much access to trash facilities and when you see a garbage it’s usually full and overflowing, but we do our best.”

12:00 pm

“There’s a clinic at 16th and Capp in the Mission where we are able to take showers.  There are only two showers for about fifteen women and two showers for maybe one hundred men. Sometimes we show up to take a shower and can’t that day. Yeah, it takes a lot of time for us. It takes us from about nine o’clock in the morning ‘til two in the afternoon just to shower and eat if we want to that day.”

5:00 pm

“There’s times where I don’t take a shower because I can’t. On those days I clean with wipes. When I get dressed on those days it doesn’t feel the same; my self-esteem is down. When you don’t take showers you’re not as motivated to do things.  I used to have a job with Costco. I can make it back I think. But it’s hard to get back there when I can’t wash myself and I always feel dirty.”

Every San Franciscan deserves the ability to properly maintain their personal hygiene. Add your name to our petition.

Stories from our guests: Elder

8:00 am

“I usually sleep in a park or at a bus station. I sit upright so that no one bothers me. Outside there is no safety, but I just close my eyes and hope for the best. Sometimes my stuff gets stolen. You’re trying to get ahead and then everything is just ripped out from under you. You hit brick walls.  Whenever I have a couple of extra dollars, I buy a bunch of bananas and give them to my friends living in the park with me.”

12:00 pm

“I have a real routine. When I open my eyes in the morning, I jump on the Muni and go to 16th and Mission. The center there has a place to do laundry and to take a shower, but there’s always a huge line of people. When I’m there, I can get a cup of coffee and charge my phone. I need my phone to find out about jobs. I’m working on my resume.”

5:00 pm

“I go to Planet Fitness on Sansome. It’s 10 bucks a month but I’m able to can stay clean that way. Sometimes I use the bathrooms at the library or the mall, but in an emergency, I just pee into a bottle and throw it into a dumpster.  I feel pretty well taken care of by the city but I think that people who are burned out need some inspiration to show them that someone cares.”

Every San Franciscan deserves the ability to properly maintain their personal hygiene. Add your name to our petition.

Stories from our guests: Jeff

8:00 am

“Toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste, even when you do get them they’re so hard to hold on to. It might be three or four days before you can find someplace else to get it for free. To be able to go somewhere you can get it on a daily basis would be drastically helpful. When you don’t have it, you don’t have it, and you’re not going to spend all day looking for it.”

12:00 pm

“Hygiene is important.  You’re trying to better your life, you go to a job interview and you haven’t had a shower, and you don’t get the job. You look at that from the employer’s perspective, they don’t want someone who’s dirty. It’s really hard being homeless and being able to find a place to shower every day.”

5:00 pm

“We try to stay around one of the bathrooms that is open 24 hours. A restaurant or something like that. But a lot of people don’t have those choices. And it’s really hard on women. My wife is with me, and her having to go out in the grass to go to the bathroom, it hurts me on the inside. It’s real, real hard on me. And I do the best I can, I just pray it gets better.  Having more public restrooms open 24 hours would be tremendously helpful. I’ve worked these streets, I’ve swept these streets, I worked with City Clean, I know what it’s like.”

Every San Franciscan deserves the ability to properly maintain their personal hygiene. Add your name to our petition.

Stories from our guests: Kathy

8:00 am18882096_10154619747742644_2049661283275623213_n

“Do you know how hard it is to try to hold your stuff until you can find some place to do it? If by chance you can find a bathroom that’s open outside, you’re lucky. Especially if you’re not downtown. I was in the Bayview. There was absolutely no restrooms, unless you bought something. I tried to camp by McDonald’s so I could go and use their restroom. The security guard was cool with me. When they got fed up with it, I went to the Jack in the Box across the street. It was a matter of making every fast food joint mad at me. But when they were closed, it was find a car and squat.”

12:00 pm

“I found out why people act so weird when they become homeless. When you treat people like animals, they start to act like animals. Seriously. I have a Master’s degree, I’m an educated woman – when I became homeless, I became an animal. It was because of the way people treated me.”

5:00 pm

“When you treat people like they’re homeless but not hopeless, they’re still people, it’s a whole different feeling for the recipient. That’s why I always come to St. Anthony’s. During that time St. Anthony’s was my home. They made me remember that I was a person. They treated me with dignity no matter how I looked, no matter how dirty I was, how I smelled, whatever.”

Every San Franciscan deserves the ability to properly maintain their personal hygiene. Add your name to our petition.

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St. Anthony’s is the place San Francisco comes to care for our homeless and low-income neighbors.

Thank you for your support.

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