House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other dignitaries broke ground Thursday on a building in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood that will house both a beloved dining room for low-income and homeless people and a senior housing complex.
The 10-story building being constructed at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Jones Street will be home to both the St. Anthony Dining Room and 90 units of housing for seniors from Mercy Housing.
The original dining room, which closed last February to make room for construction on the new building, served an estimated 38 million meals to residents since opening in 1950.
"For years, this corner has been where those who have a little something extra come to share with those who have very little," said Barry Stenger, interim executive director of St. Anthony Foundation.
Tyrone Hopper, a former drug user, is one such person who received help from St. Anthony, which also offers drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, among other services.
"Just four years, nine months and six days ago, I was smoking crack," Hopper said. "I was a drug addict, but almost five years later, here I am. Miracles do happen."
Hopper now works in the dietary department at San Francisco General Hospital and is about to graduate with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
Stories like Hopper's are why Pelosi said she doesn't mind when people make fun of San Francisco and its occasionally wacky ways.
"When they talk about 'San Francisco values,' I take it as a compliment," she said.
The new dining room will provide 43 percent more seating and storage space, while Mercy Housing is providing the 90 affordable apartments for low-income and formerly homeless seniors.
While the building will help many people in need, "it's just a drop in the bucket compared to the need that we have," said Doug Shoemaker, president of Mercy Housing California.
Indeed, St. Anthony Foundation still needs an additional $2.5 million to fully fund the new dining room.
People interested in donating are encouraged to visit the organization's website at www.stanthonysf.org.
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