St. Anthony's Immersion
May 25 - 29, 2015
We made it to the hostel by around 8:15 am and after storing our baggage and parking the vans in long-term parking, made it to St. Anthony's by 9:30 am. We learned that today, Memorial Day, is the busiest day of all days of the year for St. Anthony's (even more than Thanksgiving or Christmas!). Everyone worked very hard for four hours (with a 20 minute break), serving food, busing tables, or prep work in the kitchen. We'll be leaving for the Mission District a little later to have dinner and get a guided tour of the Precita Murals by Tom Motroni.
By the way, there were a few news channels at St. Anthony's this morning and I think some of our kids will be in their news segment tonight. Check out channel 7 at 6:00 pm.
Today we met with Angelina from the Justice Education Team at St. Anthony's. She gave a powerful presentation describing the Tenderloin population and the challenges they faced here. We then worked in the Dining Room and had lunch there. Afterwards, the students worked in groups completing a simulation of purchasing the best food products in their fictional "family" living in the tenderloin given dietary and living restrictions as well as the fact that there is not a single real grocery store.
Later, we went to the Mayor's Office where we met with Marisa Pereira-Tully and Christine Keener. Marisa is on the Mayor's budgetary committee and Christine works for HOPE and they explained all the difficulties and intricacies of trying to house as many of the homeless population as possible in San Francisco.
We had dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant and ended up with several leftovers (not because no one ate, but because we all ordered a lot). The students decided instead of throwing the food away, they would box it and offer it to homeless people on our trek home. It was all gratefully accepted :o)
At Boeddeker park acting like kids...
This morning started out with running into Indian Joe, an iconic figure in San Francisco, on our way to St. Anthony's.
We had a morning session with Marie, who gave a touching presentation about empathizing and caring for the elderly, especially the elderly in the Tenderloin. Some of our group moved on to spend the morning at an elderly care facility, and the rest worked in the Dining Room.
In the afternoon, we spent some time in the Father Alfred F. Boeddeker Park, located across the street from the Tenderloin Police Department. Later we met with three police officers who spent an hour with us in a Q and A session about how they work with the Tenderloin community.
Afterwards, we walked to the Civic Center where we got to experience the farmers market that is subsidized by the city of San Francisco and then took a five minute bus ride to experience a food truck park for dinner.
Finally, we came back to the hostel and met with Xavier Galindo, a filmmaker who grew up in the Tenderloin and makes short films highlighting the plight of this vulnerable population. Here is a link to his film that was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival and from which he just returned yesterday*.
*There is adult language in this short film.
Today was our last full day in San Francisco and it was full of activity. We started out in the classroom of St. Anthony's where we heard a heartfelt and painful testimonial from Adrian, an addict in recovery, followed by a Q and A with him.
We returned to the St. Anthony's Dining Room where we continued to serve lunch and interact with the guests there and returned after lunch to the classroom for a session spent discussing "What is service?" and different aspects of helping and being a part of our community in every sense that word conveys.
In the afternoon we went to an organization called "Vet SOS" where we heard a presentation from Celeste Quintero, an Americorps participant who is in charge of this program. She explained the challenges of the homeless in caring for their dear animals and how many free veterinary services are available to them on a monthly basis from Vet SOS.
Finally, we finished with dinner at Old Skool Café in the Bay View section of San Francisco. Look here to see the story of Old Skool. It was a delicious family style dinner we all shared and enjoyed!
We worked one last time in the Dining Room. Our participants represented themselves in an exemplary manner all week and we finished the morning with many smiles and sad goodbyes.