Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Blog Post 
By: Rachel Spencer ( )

Rachel Spencer (Edited)Traffic is miserable in the . It’s not because the highways are small or that traffic lights aren’t programed properly, but because people are flocking here. As the number of cars on the road continues to increase, the number of people looking for housing is also increasing at a high rate.

As the Bay Area’s population continues to grow, the supply of rental units is rapidly decreasing and the demand for them is increasing, which is causing rental prices to sharply incline year after year.  For the affluent, the high rental rates are often discussed as an annoyance. For the working class, the high rental rates are crippling. If you want to survive the cost of living in the Bay Area, a single household needs to make a minimum of$78,000/year. Most working class individuals are working hard at jobs that pay minimum wage.  Imagine: for one household to make $78,000/year, it would require 4.7 full time minimum wage jobs!

Despite working full time and doing all that is in their control working class families are struggling to scrape by and, just when it all gets to be too much to handle, Samaritan House swoops in to save the day.

The name Samaritan House reflects perfectly the nature of the good work that they do. It calls to mind the story of The Good Samaritan.  In short, the story depicts a man who was a victim to thieves during his travels, leaving him without any possessions and half dead on the side of the street. As he lay there, people walked past him and avoided him until another traveler from Samaria helped him by tending to his wounds, giving him a safe place to stay and being a true hero for this man in need. Samaritan House exemplifies the compassion for the needy in today’s San Mateo.

In San Mateo alone, there is not a shortage of people who need help meeting their basic needs. As they come to Samaritan House, they are treated like dignified human beings and helped to get a roof over their heads, clothing on their children’s backs and food in their stomachs.

On any given day, you can go to Samaritan House in San Mateo to find a 3 story building full of compassion, dedication, humility, kindness, and laughter working day-in and day-out to meet the basic needs of those who can’t do it on their own. In other words, you’ll find a 3 story building full of heroes, and remember, not all heroes wear capes.

Community Connections Blog Posts are comprised of narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best- our staff, clients, and volunteers!

Everyone is invited to participate, please email your experience with Samaritan House to rebecca@samaritanhousesanmatao.org.

Community Connections – Vicky Stein

Vicky Stein -

Vicky Stein -Written By:

Samaritan House volunteer – Vicky Stein

There are few things in the world as satisfying as feeding people. My favorite memories of my childhood are of the chaos in our kitchen as we finished cooking and sat down at a crowded table, filling ourselves with warm food and good company: I could look around the table at my friends and family and feel proud that I had worked hard to leave everyone healthy, satisfied, and loved. As a result, the Samaritan House Produce Harvest is one of my favorite volunteer activities- it also leaves me with the sense that I’m helping my community create warmth in their own homes.

Not every one of my neighbors is as lucky as I’ve been, to have constant and predictable access to healthy food- junk food is cheaper, faster, and more readily accessible. It doesn’t require special storage like fruits and vegetables do, which makes it simpler to stock up and store both for donors and clients. But the health benefits of produce are clear- high in nutrition and flavor, low in fats and salts and added sugars- and we’ve figured out a way to help people who might not be able to afford grocery store fruits and vegetables benefit from local bounty. When leftover produce from farms isn’t bought by supermarkets, it’s often donated or sold below cost to the Second Harvest Food Bank, which can transport the fragile goods in its refrigerated truck. The Samaritan House, teamed up with Second Harvest Food Bank, distributes the produce to nearly a hundred families on the last Monday of each month, turning potentially wasted food into fresh opportunity.

 

While the planning of the event seems smooth (the food is picked up and transported, the truck is unloaded, families check in and collect their produce, volunteers help them carry bags to cars and wave goodbye) it often becomes a happy sort of chaos. Volunteers span the ages, from students in school uniforms to retired parents, which means that only some can help with heavy lifting, some speak more languages than others, and some might not have ever cooked the produce they’re giving away. Meanwhile, clients at the event might also speak only one language, which won’t necessarily be English, and may have come with their elderly grandparents and children, who add to the general excitement. Those of us who regularly turn up to help are joined by men from the Worker’s Resource Center, who pitch in with unloading the truck, unfolding tables, and moving heavy boxes into empty spaces so that the handout can continue smoothly. Everyone signs in and pulls on a pair of gloves and, in true neighborly spirit, joins the melee and lends a hand wherever their skills are needed.

 

At the end of the event, my hands are sweaty inside the latex gloves and my sweater is covered in flecks of onion skin, and I can watch in satisfaction as hundreds of people walk away laden with the fixings to feed their families a healthy and hearty meal.

**This post was written for our Community Connections Blog. There you will find stories, ideas, opinions and other narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best, the staff and volunteers! you have a story you would like to tell, please email it to rebecca@samaritanhousesanmatao.org. 

Community Connections – Julia Parmer

the harbor overlooking shelter at sunset

the harbor overlooking shelter at sunset

Written By:  

Samaritan House Staff Member, Julia Parmer 

John has been sitting by the window overlooking the SamTrans parking lot for two days now. He is steadfast in his vigilance, barely moving a muscle, back straight, hands in his lap. He is watching something, but I do not yet know what. Towards the end of the second day, he cautiously approaches the front desk, where I am filling out some paperwork. “Miss Julia?” he asks hesitantly. “There’s a dog in that truck by the window. I think his owner must have forgotten about him and I’m worried.” Following John’s lead, several clients run to the window, and for the first time they observe what he has been keeping a close watch over. A small dog is sitting in the driver’s seat of a large Chevy truck. The dog is completely still. Immediately, we all spring into action. Anje calls the police and the SPCA. Gus, an outreach case manager from San Mateo County Behavioral Health who happens to be here runs outside and taps on the car window, hoping to awaken the dog. The car window is slightly open. With some help from another client, Gus drops some food inside. The dog stirs; he is ok.  John continues to oversee the action from his perch, silent and steady. All hands are now on deck to save this neglected animal. I am smiling, laughing at the controlled chaos.

            Every day, the residents of Safe Harbor amaze me. John has little more than a backpack to his name. Yet there he sits, day in and day out, keeping watch over another life, protecting this small creature that cannot protect itself. It is these moments in which I feel so privileged to work here and it is these moments that make the other, often heartbreaking moments bearable. I am so thankful to know people like John, and to be a part of this community at Samaritan House.

**This post was written for our Community Connections Blog. There you will find stories, ideas, opinions and other narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best, the staff and volunteers! you have a story you would like to tell, please email it to rebecca@samaritanhousesanmatao.org.