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SF Community Spotlight: St. Anthony’s Emergency Winter Shelter

Kelly Salance

When you look out the window lately, its more than likely it will be raining. We are amidst a powerful El Niño season here in San Francisco. This means our neighbors living on the streets need protection from the elements now more than ever. According to San Francisco’s 2015 Homeless Count, there are over 6,600 people living on the streets and in shelters around the city.  With so many people without homes, it is imperative extra steps be taken to keep people safe and dry this winter.

Organizations across the city are working tirelessly to give people who are homeless the resources they need to stay safe this winter. One such organization is St. Anthony’s, with a mission to feed, heal, shelter, clothe, and lift the spirits of those in need; they are committed to providing the poor of San Francisco with services to meet their basic needs.

Initially, St. Anthony’s opened an emergency shelter in their dining room when the forecast called for severe rain. The San Francisco’s Human Services Agency requires a forecast of either three consecutive days of rain, two inches of rain in 48 hours, or temperatures consistently dropping below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the city’s emergency shelters to open. However, after a few night of running the shelter, the staff at St. Anthony’s realized the need was so great that they needed to break policy and provide for their guests. Earlier this month, St. Anthony’s announced that they will provide shelter services nightly through the end of March.

Head over to St. Anthony’s and you will find a committed group of staff and volunteers, including Zendesk employees, making sure the shelter is properly running. In the evening that means setting up beds and distributing blankets, socks, scarves and a hot meal. In the morning, you will find the staff giving out hygiene kits, coffee, breakfast, and smiles to start the day.

Despite the El Niño emergency shelters, there is only 1 bed per 5.5 homeless persons in San Francisco pointing to larger issues around homelessness that our city must tackle. The work St. Anthony’s is doing to be a good neighbor is an example we should all follow.

The St. Anthony's Dining Room transformed into an emergency shelter. Photo courtesy of St. Anthony's. 

How you can help:

· Volunteer.   St. Anthony’s needs your help to provide a safe place for their guests for the rest of the winter. Sign up online or email

· Donate.   To provide the services necessary for their shelter, St. Anthony’s relies on the support of the community.  You can provide a bed, a meal and a safe place from the storms for those who need it the most. You can donate here.  

· Spread awareness.  Tell people about St. Anthony’s. Get your teammates, coworkers, friends and family involved and volunteering in the shelter!