SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — After more than six decades of serving the needy of San Francisco's Tenderloin, St. Anthony's Dining Room has witnessed how social policies, economic booms and busts and historic events have impacted those who come to the charity seeking help.
Executive Director Barry Stenger told KCBS In Depth that some reasons for the poverty he sees are recurring ones such as veterans suffering from mental illness. And there are also newer ones like those with jobs and homes who still need a meal because the cost of rent has made harder to afford food.
But despite it all, Stenger said St. Anthony's mission remains unchanged.
"We're seeing a kind of a graying of poverty in San Francisco. In other words, we're seeing more seniors in our dining room, seeing a lot more veterans," he said. "I think when Father Alfred started the dining room right after World War II, before people talked about PTSD and things like that. He had a lot of people come back from the war and couldn't find a way to make like most other people did. We're seeing veterans, now, of seven different wars in our dining room—about one of every five guests in our dining room is a veteran."
This year also marks the first holiday season that St. Anthony's guests will celebrate in the charity's brand new dining room. Stenger said tthe new facility was ten years in the making, brimming with upgrades and improvements, but built to provide the original and most important thing St. Anthony's offers-dignity.
"The guests are really excited; when they walk through the new dining room, they realize that this place was built for them," he said. "St. Anthony's as a nonprofit is used to dealing with whatever we get; and so we were used to…being in place that wasn't meant to be a dining room—it was meant to be an auto body shop—but it's great to have a dining room that was built to be a dining room, to prepare food in a kitchen that was built to be a kitchen—there's all kinds of new efficiencies.
Learn more about St. Anthony's and the many faces of need in San Francisco by listening to KCBS In Depth's full interview with Executive Director Barry Stenger:
St. Anthony's Dining Room Sees Changing Faces of San Francisco's Poverty; Stays True To Their Mission
If you would like to help, St. Anthony's curb-side turkey and food donation drive for Thanksgiving started on Saturday. More information can be found on the foundation's website, www.stanthonysf.org.
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