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

Details from our Night in Oz!

 For a the full album, CLICK HERE, or visit:
For a the full album, visit:

With nearly 500 people in attendance, Samaritan House’s sold-out Main Event fundraiser was a night to remember. The Crown Plaza’s jam packed ballroom was turned into a bedazzled Emerald City where Samaritan House supporters got a chance to celebrate the remarkable achievements of their robust Housing Assistance Program and Safe Harbor Shelter.

The evening began as guests made their way down the Yellow Brick Road for cocktail hour featuring sparkling silent auction displays, raffles, and much more. The premium ticket holders were invited to “Glinda’s Bubble Lounge,” where they took pictures with four characters from the Wizard of Oz – Dorothy Gale, The Wizard, The Wicked Witch and Glinda the Good Witch.

Emmy award winning journalist, Heather Holmes, KTVU, emceed the action-packed Night in Oz. Festivities included an elegant dinner, an award ceremony, a live auction including a fund-a-need paddle raise for the Housing Assistance Program and plenty of great music.

Samaritan House CEO, Bart Charlow, thanked everyone who contributed to making the event possible. The impact of the Housing Assistance Program shined with the help of a client who shared his personal story of triumph. He was presented with the Courage Award; it was a moving experience for everyone in the room as his personal crisis could have happened to anyone. The Knowledge Award was given to California State Senator, Jerry Hill and the inaugural Heart of Samaritan House Award was given to the former Executive Director of Samaritan House, John Kelly.

The live auction was led by auctioneer Zan Aufderheide of KLM Auctions, and offered everything from a Maui vacation in paradise to a Backyard Western Barbeque. Guests finished off the evening in style, dancing to the swanky sounds of the Bay Area’s own Pure Ecstasy.

All proceeds from the event will benefit Samaritan House’s Housing Assistance Program. Samaritan House’s Housing Assistance Program consists of Safe Harbor Shelter, which provides 32,695 Nights of safe, warm sleep each year to 425 people. The Program also provides more than $887,000 in direct financial assistance to keep people in their homes and off the streets. The money is used for everything from helping a family to pay their water bill for a month to helping them pay their rent or mortgage.

For more information on Samaritan House, visit


Welcome to Glinda’s Bubble Lounge!

The Main Event 2016 – A Night in Oz, There’s No Place Like Home!

Take a sneak peek inside Glinda’s Bubble Lounge from our Main Event – A Night in Oz – There’s No Place Like Home. A few lucky premium ticket holders and sponsors enjoyed some champagne and a photo opportunity with four characters from The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy Gale, The Wizard, The Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.

This year’s event focused on battling homelessness in San Mateo County.  Every single person who attended, supported, donated, volunteered or helped to spread the word about the Main Event – A Night in Oz made a HUGE DIFFERENCE. An especially big thank you to all of our benefactors or sponsors and underwriters.

It was your support that made this event our best and most successful Main Event yet. It’s you, each individual person who is making a big difference in the fight against homelessness in San Mateo County.



Congratulations on a Great Volunteer Appreciation Event Yesterday!

Last night’s Volunteer Appreciation event had just the right amount of structure and sparkle.

The first-time volunteer attendees were not the only ones who were excited and tickled by the arrangements. More importantly, quite a few of our veteran volunteers spoke up saying “this was the best one I’ve ever attended”, and how pleased they were to be part of Samaritan House.

The depth of commitment to Samaritan House and all our surrounding communities was readily apparent to everyone. There was gushing galore. In fact, quite a few of our regulars mentioned how much volunteering for Samaritan House has changed and enriched their lives!

Senator Jerry Hill presented the Kelly Awards and Foundation Awards and Bart Charlow presented the SAMMYs.  Senator Jerry Hill was in excellent form, and when he spoke about John Kelly’s legacy, he was teary-eyed. Mollie Marshall did the honors for the Board.

This year, in addition to Samaritan House’s SAMMYs Awards our Volunteer Department developed a new Foundation Award, which was a great addition to the recognition portfolio, and all our Kelly Awardees were so deserving. Nominations were made by the Directors of Samaritan House.

Our volunteers are both our heritage and the key to our ability to provide all this vital service. Yet they stay in the background, expecting nothing but the opportunity to serve and to do so in good company.

A huge thank you to everyone who made the event so wonderful for them, especially to Carol Laughlin, and Rosie Coleridge, and the Elks Lodge staff.

An even bigger thank to you to all of our outstanding and dedicated volunteers!

Volunteer Spotlight

In honor of our volunteer appreciation event, happening tonight, we would like to put the spotlight on one of our superstar volunteers, Joanne! She has been volunteering two days a week for the past six months with our development team.  IMG_3280

Samaritan House relies on volunteers in every aspect of our operations and program delivery. Volunteer service defines our core value of Neighbor helping Neighbor.

Director of Development, Mary Dunbar says, “she’s very smart, and brings a high level of professional expertise from her career in the education field. She approaches learning about development with a very open mind and a strong willingness and desire to learn. She’s warm, friendly, and joyful and accomplishes a huge amount of work for us. We are really grateful to have her on our team.”

On behalf of the everyone here at Samaritan House, and the entire community, thank you Joanne, for all of your hard work and dedication. To find out how you can help out at Samaritan House, visit our volunteers page:

#Volunteer #Giveback #Dedication #SanMateo #VolunteerOpportunities #ThankYou

Two Exciting Pieces of News!


Firstly, Samaritan House is pleased to announce that we are a grant recipient, and received a $240 K grant from the Peninsula Health Care District’s () Community Grants Program. This grant will support Samaritan House’s mission to keep our community healthy through our services at our San Mateo Free Healthcare Clinic.

Last but certainly not least, each organization at the awards ceremony had the opportunity to recognize and nominate a key volunteer who helps support their mission and makes a significant contribution to the community. Samaritan House chose to recognize , M.D., for his commitment and dedication to Samaritan House over the years.

The Board of Directors at PHCD chose to recognize Jerry Salmiman, M.D., as the winner of the Volunteer of the Year and we could not be more proud!

A huge thank you to PHCD for helping Samaritan House “Achieve a Community of Health Together,” and Jerry Saliman, M.D., for all the hard work you have put in to help make our community a happier and healthier place for right now and for the future generations of our children.

You can find more information about the Board of Directors 2016 Community Partners Award Ceremony in our press release here.

GRAND OPENING of our Food Pharmacy!

The GRAND OPENING of our new Food Pharmacy, was a huge hit!


The Pharmacy is conveniently located at Samaritan House’s Redwood City Free Healthcare Clinic, so patients can fill their prescriptions on site. This innovative new program would not have been possible without the extraordinary collaboration with our partners at Sequoia Healthcare District and Second Harvest Food Bank.

The Food Pharmacy is where low income patients with diabetes can “fill’ prescriptions for free nutritious food. The Food Pharmacy is thought to the first one of it’s kind in California.

FullSizeRenderSecond Harvest will keep the Food Pharmacy stocked with fresh produce and other healthy foods and the Sequoia Healthcare District has provided partial funding.

Watch the video below ( by Fox – Channel  2 News) for highlights of yesterdays event! Read more infromation about this excellent

Read even more about this special event, in our Press Release, which you can find here:


Fighting to Keep Families in Homes

Did you know our Safe Harbor Shelter offers safety, warmth, sustenance, and healthcare to 100 homeless individuals each night? In addition, Samaritan House has a robust Housing Services Program, which helps thousands of families to avoid eviction and stay in their homes.

Learn more about all the ways Samaritan House helps to keep families off the street and on a path to success in this KTVU Channel 2, segment with our CEO, Bart Charlow:

BAY AREA PEOPLE Samaritan House San Mateo

Bart Charlow on KTVU

Or to learn more about our Housing Services Program, visit us on the web at:

Spotlight on Genentech!

Genentech has exemplified true generosity – doing something nice for someone who will never find out. This year, Genentech has gone above and beyond in more ways than one!
First, Samaritan House is thrilled to be the recipient of a $50,000 grant from Genentech to support our Free Clinic of San Mateo!

Second, our friends at Genentech volunteered their time to create created hundreds of toiletry bags for our shelter clients IN ADDITION to donating coats, gift cards for teens, and three barrels of new toys!

And last but certainly not least, several Genentech volunteers generously spent their time hand-painting dozens of rocking horse for children who come through our Toy Shop!

These contributions are sure to make the holidays brighter for hundreds of children and families. Thank you Genentech!

Community Connections – Celebrating Howera’s Milestones

Written By: Mental Health Case Manager, Julia Parmer, MSW
Howera is small and slight, perhaps all of 95 lbs. Her eyes are warm and bright and her smile is infectious. She is sitting across from me in my office, and we are on the phone with the Human Service Agency of San Mateo. She speaks almost no English but has given me permission to advocate on her behalf. Howera has been in this country for just a little over a year. Before that she spent her entire life in a small town in Ethiopia.

This has been a big week for Howera. On Monday, she and I met with her immigration attorney from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. The attorney, whose services are free of charge, came bearing good news. After months of delays and endless paperwork, Howera’s work permit finally arrived; the first in what will be a series of steps towards her self-sufficiency. The lawyer also came with a thick sheaf of official looking papers indicating that Howera’s Violence Against Women Act Visa has been filed. Howera wasted no time this week in firing off job applications to countless retail shops and local grocery stores. On Tuesday, Howera met with a primary care doctor at our Samaritan House Medical Clinic after many months without health care. Soon she will qualify for County medical coverage, but in the interim she will utilize our comprehensive services.

Howera came to us from IVSN’s Maple Street Shelter. She had fled an emotionally and physically toxic marriage. Her husband (who is also originally from Ethiopia but has been living in California for several years) had been introduced to her through a mutual friend. They had spoken on the phone several times but had met only once. For Howera, who lived in a small impoverished war-torn village with her grandparents, the opportunity to come to California was a dream come true. But soon after coming here, the marriage steadily declined and she decided she had to get out. With the help of a counselor at Kaiser and a friend from her local church, she was able to get into Maple Street. Once timing out there, she came to us, where we hit the ground running to create a case plan and follow through on her many goals.

After waiting patiently on hold, we are finally patched through to a case worker. I read off Howera’s case number, and a moment later, we are told that Howera has qualified for CalFresh, formerly known as Food Stamps. She can pick up her EBT card tomorrow. Instinctively, Howera and I both nearly leap out of our seats rejoicing. $195 will be deposited on her card, and she will finally be able to bring food for lunch while she attends San Mateo Adult School. I have never had to think about where my next meal will come from; food is a luxury that I take for granted every day. But since the day she came to Safe Harbor, Howera has constantly voiced to me (through the help of an interpreter) her distress at not having money for food and the feeling of utter helplessness that it has given her. For the rest of the day when I see Howera around the shelter, we both burst into joyful smiles, savoring this victory that seems so small, but means so much.

There is much more for Howera to accomplish on her road to self-sufficiency. Next will be filing for divorce, then tackling the issue of housing. But for this week, for today, we will celebrate this milestone.

Community Connections is comprised of narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best- our staff, clients, and volunteers! To submit a story, please email it to