Helping homeless one home at a time

Thom McClusky stayed in a San Francisco homeless shelter for two nights before giving up and sleeping at the base of Coit Tower for more than two years.

“The shelter was like jail but without the cops,” he recalled. “You had to sleep with one eye open. At Coit, the only thing that bothers you is the raccoons.”

McClusky is one of hundreds of homeless in North Beach, Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf who have found permanent housing — and a new life — through the support of North Beach Citizens, an organization founded in 2001 by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.

Where other programs often serve as factories helping local homeless transition to shelter on a massive scale, North Beach Citizens takes an individual approach, board member Claudine Cheng said.

“Other groups talk about how many thousands they’ve helped, but when we talk, we talk about individual people by name,” Cheng said. “[Clients] really see us as a family, a positive support system.”

North Beach Citizens helps roughly 450 homeless per year from its small storefront at 720 Columbus Ave., according to case worker Brady McCartney.

The organization operates on a shoestring budget of $250,000 to $300,000 per year, the majority coming from private donations and fundraisers such as Sunday night’s seventh annual dinner, featuring Coppola wines, a full Basque dinner and music from LaVay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.

Clients who come to North Beach Citizens are given help obtaining an identification card and then housing — the first step in putting their lives together, McCartney said.

“They need a place where they have their own door to lock, a place to decompress,” McCartney said. “Then we address any mental health or addiction issues they have.”

Even after they’re on their own, many clients — like McClusky — come back regularly for lunch or to volunteer.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A lab worker from the Medical Examiner’s Office was arrested with an evidence bag of methamphetamine in August. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Audit over lab worker meth arrest finds medical examiner is missing drugs

An audit of the Medical Examiner’s Office prompted by the arrest of… Continue reading

City officials argue that the dominance of a few third-party delivery services gives them disproportionate leverage against restaurants. (Courtesy photo)
Cap on food delivery app fees may remain until indoor dining allowed at full capacity

Proposal seen as financial relief for restaurants struggling in pandemic

A voting station will be open in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown from Oct. 31 until Nov. 3 to let residents drop off ballots and provide assistance to SRO residents. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chinatown voting station to help SRO residents make their voices heard

In a bid to boost voting access for single-room-occupancy tenants in Chinatown,… Continue reading

Public observation pier at the new Judge John Sutter Regional Shoreline.
New regional park officially opens next to Bay Bridge toll plaza

The East Bay Regional Park District opened a new shoreline park Wednesday,… Continue reading

Most Read