Even before San Francisco’s vibrant and gritty Tenderloin neighborhood got its name, Father Alfred Boeddeker was doling free sandwiches out of an auto body shop that would later evolve into St. Anthony Foundation. Today, 67 years after St. Anthony’s first opened its doors, the organization now provides hot meals, shelter, medical care, clothing, addiction recovery programs, job training, and social work resources to a diverse community of San Franciscans in one of the city’s highest need neighborhoods.
Serving around 2,400 meals each day, St. Anthony’s objective isn’t just to provide low-income and homeless individuals with survival resources. Their mission from the beginning has been to cultivate a strong sense of community. “The power of human connection” is the foundation of all of their outreach programs. “We bring people together — many thousands of guests and volunteers — in a spirit of dignity, respect, and compassion,” says Carmen King, St. Anthony’s Communication and PR Lead. “[We] recognize that genuine human connection is the best way to uplift the spirits in all of us.”
San Francisco has entered an era of drastic economic inequality, which as a result, has spawned more problems for San Francisco’s low-income population. “I think that St. Anthony’s is needed now more than ever because of how much displacement has taken place,” says King. “We have created a safe place for a lot of people who’ve been left out of the advancements that have happened in this area.”
According to St. Anthony’s most recent guest survey, around 56 percent of the families that St. Anthony’s serves are homeless, and the number of homeless guests has increased from 37 percent in 2005 to 46 percent in 2015. St. Anthony’s has also seen a significant uptick in guests needing recovery and rehabilitation programs and senior citizens seeking shelter services.
However, St. Anthony’s is collaborating with Market Street startups and businesses like Zendesk to eradicate the roots of these troubling statistics. “I think the tech companies are bringing people into our communities from all over the country and world who are intelligent, dynamic, and curious about these kinds of problems and really care about making changes,” says King. “We have Zendesk volunteers here all of the time who are interested and passionate about learning what St. Anthony’s does, and they really want to make a difference. I think it’s an incredible thing. I think that the only way that we can solve problems like this is with members like Zendesk. All of those changes start with awareness.”
When it comes to making positive change in our neighborhood, having neighbors like St. Anthony's is vital but they can not do it alone. It takes a whole community to make positive change, and we encourage you to join St. Anthony's. They are tackling big challenges and need all of our help to make San Francisco a place where all people can flourish. Learn more about how to get involved here . To sweeten the deal, tweet at us (@ZDNeighborFDN) a picture of you volunteering at St. Anthony's and we will send you some Foundation swag!