(function(w,d,s,l,i){w[l]=w[l]||[];w[l].push({'gtm.start': new Date().getTime(),event:'gtm.js'});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0], j=d.createElement(s),dl=l!='dataLayer'?'&l='+l:'';j.async=true;j.data-privacy-src= 'https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js?id='+i+dl;f.parentNode.insertBefore(j,f); })(window,document,'script','dataLayer','GTM-TX99J5W');

Franciscan Ministry:
St. Anthony Foundation Is Transforming Lives in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District

Jennifer Byrne and Erik Otten were traveling on parallel paths – their lives spiraling into an abyss of homelessness, poverty and addiction. St. Anthony Foundation not only saved them, but it also transformed their lives, as it has for thousands of others since its doors opened in 1950 in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.

Today, their lives continue on parallel paths. Jennifer, former guest, is now assistant manager of St. Anthony Foundation’s clothing program, the boutique-like setting that offers free casual wear, warm clothes, business attire and children’s apparel. Former guest Erik is now a team member of the Foundation’s Father Alfred Center, a free year-long residential drug and alcohol recovery program, of which he is a graduate.

“Without St. Anthony Foundation, I don’t know where I would be today. [It] made such a huge impression… at a time when I needed help the most. Now I get to help others who need it the most,” says Jennifer. Eric is more candid: “Without [the] Foundation, my addiction would’ve taken me out.”

Theirs are real-life stories of the most vulnerable that the safety net of St. Anthony Foundation has been catching every day for the past 73 years. It began when Alfred Boeddeker, OFM, pastor of St. Boniface Church in the Tenderloin, distributed sandwiches from the back door of the friary on Golden Gate Avenue. He felt bad that his guests had to eat in the streets, so he opened St. Anthony’s Dining Room to give them a gathering place where they could dine with dignity. It has been a beacon of companionship and care in California ever since.

The Dining Room now serves more than 1,000 meals a day – 46 million to date. When it reached the milestone 6-millionth meal in 1962, the Foundation received a congratulatory telegram from President John F. Kennedy. While recognition is appreciated, the accolades and success of the Foundation are measured in the lives they feed, heal, shelter and clothe, and in the spirits they lift and the lives they help turn around.

For most guests, it starts in the Dining Room (which also provides take-home groceries for hundreds of elderly and low-income Tenderloin residents). But it’s more than just food, as one former guest, Aundre, says: “This is the place where I felt the most respected and cared for… being seen… feeling like a real person.”

There is no other place like it anywhere in the city, where guests can get free meals and clothing, rest and showers, health care, addiction recovery, shelter and job skills virtually all under one roof.

Of course, Franciscan friars are among the staff, being a presence to the guests. Friars are often seen outside the building and on the nearby streets inviting the homeless for a meal and gently persuading the sick and addicted to seek assistance from the Foundation’s programs.

Once they get to know guests, friars and staff connect them to a comprehensive menu of wraparound services: the boutique, the largest free clothing initiative in San Francisco (maybe the entire West Coast) that distributes 350,000 articles annually; a medical clinic that provides primary and specialty care (pediatrics, podiatry, ophthalmology, to name a few) to 2,500 families; the Father Alfred Center, an abstinence-based addiction recovery program that integrates counseling, spiritual services, and job training; the Tenderloin Technology Lab, which provides access to over 40 computers and sponsors educational classes and workshops, and a transitional employment program that prepares individuals for re-entry to the workforce.

There is also the Hygiene Hub – free access to private showers, toilets, laundry machines, personal care products, and a fresh change of clothes; St. Clare’s Care, a safe place to rest and rejuvenate during the day inside St. Boniface Church, run by staff and Franciscan friars, and the Resource Center, which connects guests to a network of social services, such as rental assistance.

“We treat people with dignity and help them overcome significant challenges. We consider ourselves a gateway to stability, [walking] with people on their journey, whatever the circumstances,” said Foundation CEO Nils Behnke.

In other words, everyone who shows up gets the help and support they need, no questions asked. It reminds Juan Jose (JJ) Jauregui Ladezma, OFM, who works with guests in several of the programs, of Matthew 25:35-40.

“Corporal works of mercy… from the passage consist of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick… Seeing our guests depart with joy, renewed energy, and beautiful smiles affirms the real difference we’re making,” JJ said.

Content for this article compiled and written by Steve Mangione.

This website uses cookies and third party services. Ok