Volunteer Spotlight – Pantry Volunteers

One of the many services provided by Samaritan House, our food pantry is a vibrant and highly utilized space which exemplifies our community’s strong support of our mission.

Over 21,000 bags of groceries are distributed through our pantry every year. The pantry runs efficiently with the help of our volunteers, who sort and help with food distribution 5 days a week.

In this video, Ana Maria Jackson & Paula Corona, volunteers for over 10 years in our pantry, talk about their experience with clients and the community.

Helping families. One client at a time.

“There is no greater joy, nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life.” Mary Rose McGeady, philanthropist

In this short video created for our food service program, Samaritan House’s client service supervisor Robyn Fischer shares her insights on why our food assistance program is such an important asset to our low-income client families.

During the month of June, our client service department had over 600 client visits. Clients who visited our office we helped through the diverse range of services we offer to help eligible families. Our client service staff are trained to evaluate each individual or family to properly assess their needs, connect them with the resources they need, and help them develop a long-term plan towards self-sufficiency. Individuals in need are provided with important resources – like food and clothing vouchers, and rental assistance – and referrals to other local agencies.

It is this care and concern for each of our clients that makes Samaritan House and all our case managers such an incredible resource to our community. If you are in need of assistance, please contact us to see how we can help.

Breaking the Cycle: Martin’s Story (Conclusion)

Kat Barrientos, Safe Harbor Health Case Manager

Last week we profiled the story of a resident of Safe Harbor, Martin, as he overcame obstacles and arrived at our shelter to get back on his feet. Click here to read the first part of his story.

Guest blog post by Amy Hsieh.

A year ago, Martin was caught stealing a registration sticker from another car. Fortunately, the charges were dropped down, but it gave him a scare. He has goals now, like going back to work, finding housing and maintaining his health.

A big part of Martin’s turnaround has been working with his health case manager Kat Barrientos in Safe Harbor’s Housing for Health program. This past year, Martin developed severe cellulitis that caused swelling of the limbs, headaches, fever and pain. At Safe Harbor, Kat physically examines his leg every day, and makes sure that Martin shows up to all his medical appointments.

Martin’s life is different now. He is strongly focused, and his life is getting back on track. He works closely with his case manager on his individual plan that is tailored to what’s going on in his life. Martin knows that he has Kat to support him and to give him tools to help.

“Kat doesn’t feel like staff. She feels like a friend. She keeps me on track with my plan and helps me keep my word to myself,” he says.

How does Martin feel about the future? He feels great. For the first time in along time, he is thinking about what he wants to do in five years. He’s taking classes and plans to enroll in a skills training program to become a surgical technician or a medical device assembly technician.

“I changed because I had to turn the page, because I wanted to accept myself and be around people who want more from life. Safe Harbor allows you space and time to think about where you want to go,” says Martin.

A few months ago, Kat invited Martin to serve as a consumer representative on a new Advisory Board for San Mateo County Medical Center’ Healthcare for the Homeless. This new role as a homeless advocate is a natural fit.

“Being on the Advisory Board has really helped his self-confidence. It has given him a voice to express his ideas that are taken seriously. I’m very proud of him,” says Kat.

Martin’s story is just one story from the several hundred men and women Safe Harbor serves every year. With the community’s strong support, Samaritan House will continue to help those in need regain self-sufficiency and build brighter futures. For a list of the shelter’s current needs, please visit Our Wish List page.

Breaking the Cycle: Martin’s Story (Part 1)


We are excited to present this guest blog post by Samaritan House Grants Manager Amy Hsieh. Amy visited with a resident of Safe Harbor to talk about his experiences with homelessness and his road towards stability.

Martin is chronically homeless, having lived in and out of Safe Harbor shelter since the late 90’s when it was still located in the National Guard Armory in San Mateo.

Born in Los Angeles, Martin spent his childhood in San Francisco in a family that provided little supervision. Martin says, “I lived a different life. I was drug-oriented. I partied all the time when I was a teenager. It became a lifestyle. Then it becomes your life.”

He found jobs, worked for many years in South City in the freight and shipping business, but was always sidetracked by drugs. For a while, he worked for at an international freight company, where he used his travel benefits to fly to exotic locations. Inevitably, he would spend all of his money, and then be back for another stay at Safe Harbor.

“I was using and not functional. Breaking that cycle was hard,” he says.

On his first stay at Safe Harbor, he remembers feeling uncomfortable, not knowing anyone. “It was like being out on the street, but in an enclosed space, like being squeezed into a box,” Martin explains. Once he started getting to know people at the shelter, he started to feel more comfortable.

“Many people don’t realize that the shelter is a community of people who are all in the same boat. You’re not forced to be here. It’s a choice. If you want, you can make it work for you,” says Martin.

It has taken time, but over his last three stays at Safe Harbor, Martin made a conscious choice to live a different lifestyle. He is now drug free, but the road has not been easy…

(Story continued next week. Check back to read more about Martin’s journey.)

Samaritan House bids farewell to Kitty

Novelist Paul Auster wrote that the best one can do in life is to “leave the world a little better than you found it.” On May 24th, after 12 years at Samaritan House – 11 of those serving as our Executive Director – Kitty Lopez will leave our organization in many ways a better, more established agency than when she arrived here over a decade ago.

During Kitty’s tenure, Samaritan House has expanded its range and depth of services to provide much needed resources to over 12,000 low-income individuals every year. Kitty oversaw several key organizational projects and achievements during her time as our leader, these include:

• The completion of a $6 million Capital Campaign for Samaritan House’s main offices, kitchen, and Kids’ Closet at Pacific Blvd, and the remodel of our Free Medical and Dental Clinic in San Mateo

• The opening of our second free Medical and Dental Clinic in Redwood City in collaboration with the Sequoia Healthcare District

• The remodel and improvements made to Safe Harbor Shelter

• A growth of agency revenue from $2.5M in 2002 to $8.5M in 2013

• Funding for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) offered by our client service department. This was accomplished in 2008 as the recession peaked and funding for homelessness prevention and housing assistance programs was crucial for families struggling through financial hardships.

These are impressive achievements in an organization that provides a diversity of much needed services. For almost four decades, Samaritan House has been a strong presence in San Mateo County, providing a safety-net for our low-income neighbors so that they can build a happier and brighter future.

Kitty leaves the organization to reunite with her passion for working with children and focusing on education. Before coming to Samaritan House, Kitty taught kindergarten, 2nd grade, and high school in regular and special education in the Bay Area and in Santa Barbara, California. Her passion for Samaritan House’s mission, positive attitude, and strong leadership will be missed. As our Board President Patty Hsiu explained, “Samaritan House is an organization that helps and engages so many in our community… This will absolutely continue as we go through the bittersweet transition of seeing Kitty off to opportunity to do even more good for our neighborhood.”

We will miss Kitty but we appreciate the time and wisdom she shared with us during her time here. As an organization, we look upon this transition as a time of opportunity for the agency. We look forward to building upon our successes and furthering our mission in the community – helping our neighbors in need.

Click here to watch our video from the Main Event – Kitty bids Farewell to the Agency