"Well, it looks like the work, and the Spirit, have made it happen," wrote Laura Slattery, Executive Director of the Gubbio Project, which has provided shelter to homeless San Franciscans during the day at St. Boniface Church in the Tenderloin for 11 years. Now the Project is expanding, partnering with St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal church on 15th Street between Mission and Valencia Streets, "starting in December, gratefully before the worst of the El Niño effects begin." There, writes Slattery, "we hope to provide the same essential services that we have been providing at St. Boniface — weekly breakfasts, massage, haircuts, HIV testing, and foot care."
The Chronicle reports that the program will begin as a six-month trial during which 30 to 50 homeless people will be welcomed from 6 to 10 a.m. on weekdays. The founder of Simmons ComforPedic mattresses is even chipping in, donating mattress pad "relief beds."
"Sanctuary is a big part of our story, and we see this as an extension of it,” said the Reverend Richard Smith, the vicar of the church. The Chronicle notes the institution's history as a provider of sanctuary, invoking a period in the '80s when refugees from El Salvador sought shelter in the Mission District.
“I think people are afraid, and churches are no different,” Slattery told the Chronicle of resistance to providing shelter. “Everyone has seen that person having a psychotic break on the corner, and it’s kind of human nature to paint with a very broad brush and to say, ‘This is indicative of all homeless people.’” However, “Folks police themselves,” she said. “I hear at least 10 times a day ‘Hey man, we don’t do that here’ from the homeless people talking to each other.”
“They literally answer the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’" Bay Area comedian W. Kamau Bell told the Chronicle recently of the program. Soon, on December 3rd, he'll be performing in Blanket Statements, a comedy event hosted by customer service tech company Zendesk to benefit the Gubbio Project. “Projects like theirs are key to keeping the city the diverse, accepting, loving, cool place we know it to be,” Bell said.