Homelessness in San Francisco: An Eye-Opening Day of Service at St.Anthony’s

Feb 01, 2017 Caitlin Gribbons

Taking our ”We are Kind” value to the St. Anthony’s community, Inkhouse West served warm meals and friendly faces to the homeless during the past two Friday’s. Located at the heart of the Tenderloin, St Anthony’s was established in 1950 and coined ‘the hand beneath the safety net.’ This shelter was an eye-opening and humbling experience for us all -- shedding light on the urgent needs of the current homeless situation in San Francisco, as well as putting into perspective how very fortunate many of us are.

Through St. Anthony’s day-in and day-out efforts: 2,400 meals are provided, 150 people acquire clean clothing, and 70 people receive addiction recovery services. This outreach effort is made possible through the support and dedication of more than a thousand of volunteers each year.

Friday’s group leader explained that once homeless, it’s difficult to return to an independent lifestyle. For the 11.3% of people living below the poverty line in the Bay Area, the consistent rise in monthly rent has made homelessness a reality for more than 7,000 men, women, and children in the city. And contrary to common perceptions, the background of individuals needing this assistance varies drastically. While some come to the St. Anthony’s as a result of addiction and mental illness, a large population of veterans, senior citizens, immigrants, and young members of the LBGTQ community find themselves struggling to afford the cost of housing which requires, on average,  a fixed income of more than $900/month. As one can imagine, this can feel nearly impossible when making minimum wage. While they may be able to just cover the rent, food and clothing are out of the question.

Regardless of the rain, it was refreshing to see the humor and smiles that remained alive as the lunch lines wrapped around the building. We laughed when a gentleman asked for his ‘steak to be prepared medium-well,’ as we were serving boiled broccoli and polenta and were humbled by the amount of “thank you(s)” and “we appreciate you,” that people expressed. This experience was a reminder that when we walk past the homeless on the street, they deserve a smile, a simple hello, or some action of courteousness, a gesture often forgotten. Many of these folks not only lack meaningful interactions, but haven’t been addressed by name in weeks. Our time at St. Anthony’s was not only about serving lunch, but mingling in as we shared the meal. Conversations ranged from passionate stories of escaping one's homeland, a life-lesson on key signs to use when judging whether another truly has a good heart, to others sharing their on-going drug battle that landed them in their current situation.

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When asking what volunteering meant to co-InkHousers, the day of service meant something a little different to each individual:

  • “Interacting with the welcoming staff and guests at St. Anthony's gave me a strong sense of community and an understanding that those less fortunate are not so much strangers as they are fellow San Franciscans looking for a nice meal.” - Eva Nierenberg
  • “We might have thought ourselves benevolent for delivering trays to St. Anthony's patrons, but then it was our turn to receive service. The volunteer coordinators gave us lunch — putting us on more common ground with our struggling friends. It reminded me that that no individual is worth more than another. We all need to eat. - Alisha Gallagher
  • “Our group leader told us that sometimes guests go weeks without hearing their own names. He emphasized the importance of learning the names of the people we interacted with and greeting them with a smile. I never knew that doing so little could mean so much to them.” - Brittany Hendrickson
  • “People who have been blessed with more fortunate lives should make themselves more available to help those in need – it's as simple as that. The world would be a much better place if more people helped others, and I can guarantee they would like themselves more for it as well.” - Alli Okumura
  • “I loved that, despite the struggles, everyone at St.Anthony’s still had a smile on their face, thanked us for volunteering and took the time to chat. Our group leader told us that they focus on dignity and respect by welcoming anyone in who is hungry, and I think that really showed all day long.”- Jill Gerig

We encourage everyone to take a step-back from your everyday stresses and think about how you can show more kindness and gratitude to others. A few hours of volunteer service can go a long way in bettering your community.

Topics: Culture, 2017, Gratitude, San Francisco Public Relations
Caitlin Gribbons

Caitlin Gribbons is a native New Englander, but recently joined InkHouse's San Francisco office as a Senior Account Executive. Caitlin has spent the last 5+ years working at boutique public relations agencies that focused on low-to-no-awareness B2C & consumer brands. She prides herself on having mastered the ability to create news for her clients even when there's no 'recently made' news via creative pitch ideas, being the first to jump on breaking news, or using shocking branded-data to wow reporters. Caitlin is a graduate of Bentley University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and a minor in Information Design Corporate Communication. Fun facts outside of the office? She's backpacked numerous times in the Rocky Mountains, is a talented painter, and prides herself on trying as many new recipes as possible.

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