It was right out of a Lifetime movie plot; A group of nuns, facing eviction from their Tenderloin soup kitchen and home, are saved when a charismatic multimillionaire self-help guru purchases them a new building from which they can continue to feed the homeless. But this isn't a made-for-TV movie, and unfortunately not everything has ended happily ever after for the nuns of the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth. As Mission Local reports, the group is facing stiff opposition from Mission District neighbors who fear the nuns' planned soup kitchen will attract the homeless to the area and lower the value of residents' housing.
The property in question, 1930 Mission Street, was purchased in March by "CEO whisperer" Tony Robbins for $750,000 in cash. He gave the property to the nuns, who intended to run their soup kitchen out of the ground floor. What neither he, nor the nuns, nor the press celebrating the deal likely realized was that some of those who lived in the immediate area saw the nuns — and the struggling hungry people their soup kitchen would attract — as more of a nuisance than a savior.
Specifically, those who live above the proposed soup kitchen voiced their concerns at a Monday night meeting of neighbors seeking to form a community group with the goal of ridding the neighborhood of homeless encampments. “We have invested our life’s saving in an apartment in this building,” said one resident. “I have a hard time imagining that if we want to sell, we wouldn’t be losing a large amount of money.”
Sister Marie Benedicte, for her part, spoke to how she and her fellow nuns can improve the community by helping those struggling. “We don’t just feed the homeless we feed low-income people, a family who is out of money at the end of the month,” Mission Local reports her as telling those gathered at the meeting. “If you provide them with food, maybe they can pay their rent, and they don’t arrive on the streets.”
But still, concerns about property values are a powerful thing. “Even though the soup kitchen is having a positive effect on the community," the same neighbor said, "it’s just not an attractive business for the building." And yet! Don't think they're anti-homeless — they are just upset that the city isn't doing enough. "We don’t want an attack on homelessness,” neighboring business owner Gianina Serrano explained. “I’ve seen it my whole life. I just want the city to help address this issue directly and do more of what needs to be done to really remedy the situation.”
The Planning Commission is scheduled to decide on the proposed soup kitchen next month.