With Smoky Air Lingering, Soup Kitchen Invites Homeless To Sleep Indoors

Matt Bigler
November 14, 2018 - 1:15 pm

The smoky air lingering above the Bay Area is especially hard on homeless people who find it difficult to get indoors. 

But one San Francisco soup kitchen is turning its dining room into a dormitory so the homeless can sleep in relatively clean air. 

After dinner at St. Anthony's in the Tenderloin neighborhood, the tables and chairs are moved out, and mattresses and blankets are moved in. 

Air quality has been unhealthy for days in San Francisco and the Bay Area due to smoke blowing south from the massive wildfire that incinerated vast stretches of Butte County. Authorities have urged people to reduce their exposure by staying indoors as much as possible. 

That's easier said than done for thousands of people who are homeless in the city. 

"When you don't have a shelter to shelter in place in, we decided that we needed to provide that," said St. Anthony's spokeswoman Marnie Regan. She said that 15 percent of people who've slept in their facilities reported having a respiratory ailment. 

St. Anthony's has 60 beds available, and demand is growing. 

Charles, a homeless man, told KCBS Radio that he's turned down multiple invitations to sleep at St. Anthony's, even though he visited a doctor because of breathing problems. 

"I'm a street person," he said. "I'm so used to being on the streets."

St. Anthony's plans to make beds available as long as the air conditions are poor.