Gubbio Project offers daytime respite for SF homeless 

click to enlarge St. Boniface Church
  • Mike Hendrickson/Special to the S.f. Examiner
  • Homeless people sleep on pews at St. Boniface Church in the Tenderloin on Monday.
Scheduled to have surgery on his kidney this week, Erick “didn’t get much sleep” on the streets of San Francisco on Sunday night and was just looking for a quiet place to rest.

The 38-year-old found that needed respite Monday at St. Boniface Church in the Tenderloin, which has teamed up with the nonprofit Gubbio Project to provide a safe place for homeless people to sleep during the day.

The Gubbio Project, celebrating its 10th anniversary next month, allows those who are homeless to sleep on the church’s pews from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, according to Executive Director Laura Slattery.

“It’s a huge relief,” said Carrie, Erick’s fiancee, of being able to come to St. Boniface to rest. Carrie, 39, and Erick declined to give their last names.

Carrie and Erick, who was diagnosed with cancer last Christmas, moved to San Francisco from Texas last year after losing their jobs and home. With three years of college and job experience under her belt, Carrie said she never expected she’d wind up homeless.

That’s why it’s frustrating, the couple said, when people assume they are on the streets by choice. Among dozens of other homeless people sleeping on pews around them in the church, the couple said they are grateful for the Gubbio Project and wished there were more options for those in similar situations.

About 100 people sleep on the back two-thirds of the church pews each day, according to Slattery. They seek shelter in the church because, like Erick and Carrie, they find it hard to get any undisturbed sleep on the streets.

“Usually we have 30 people lined up when the doors open at 6 a.m.,” Slattery said.

Valerie Gorman, 59, has been coming to St. Boniface Church to rest during the day for about eight months. Homeless after moving from Atlanta, where she “lived a comfortable, middle-class life,” she said she spends her nights at a women’s facility where there are only chairs, not beds.

“I come here to elevate my feet and get the swelling down,” Gorman said.

The Gubbio Project, which is run by eight employees and about 80 volunteers, also serves breakfast to the homeless on Friday mornings.

Slattery said the organization has two main goals: to provide a safe and welcoming space at the church during the day, and to cultivate a sense of community and shared understanding about homelessness.

The only group in The City to offer a daytime haven for the homeless population in the sanctuary of a church, the Gubbio Project also offers socks, toiletries, blankets, a chaplain, a weekly massage and monthly HIV testing, Slattery said.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Bio:
Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and other topics for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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