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