SAN FRANCISCO - Those who run St. Anthony's Dining Room in San Francisco's Tenderloin say they've never had to serve this many meals each day to the homeless and those who are nearly homeless. And they've been around for almost 70 years.
"It's a lot of people. It's a lot of meals we are serving," said St. Anthony's dining room development director Suzie Sheedy. "The closest thing was the Loma Prieta earthquake. But this by far has had a much larger and much longer impact on our daily services."
St. Anthony's is now serving about 3,300 lunches daily. That's a 1,000 meals per day more since the pandemic began.
"We're seeing people in line we have never seen before. The fact is, people are being laid off, the people who were already on the edge of poverty are now having to chose between paying the rent, the electricity bill, or food," said Sheedy.
St. Anthony's Dining Room operates much differently now from when it could actually use its dining room.
These days, the bag lunches are take-out, delivered in compostable containers on the sidewalk in front of the dining room on Golden Gate Avenue.
But the biggest challenge for St. Anthony's is having to meet the enormous demand without being able to use any of its army of volunteers.
Social distancing won't allow for it. So the entire paid staff has to pitch in.
"Everybody from the dishwasher, because there are no more dishes to wash, to the executive director, is out there serving lunches," said Sheedy.
Besides food, St. Anthony's also sets up an outdoor tech center during the week where people can recharge their phones or go online to get the latest news.
The organization is also looking to rent a shower facility.
Without volunteers, St. Anthony's says it has to spend more money than ever on its lunch program. And at the same time it has had to cancel its major fundraiser this month.
St. Anthony's says it could use some support, as they support others in need. To donate go to St. Anthony's Foundation website.