Catholic Worker Hospitality House of San Bruno - Providing meals and shelter in San Bruno, California.

Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

February Appeal

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

February 2023

Dear Friends,

In early January we had to call an ambulance to take Roger, a long-time resident of our Second Ave boarding house, to the hospital. For several days prior he had been declining physically and mentally to the point where he couldn’t even walk to the bathroom. Our hope that day was that maybe a few days in the hospital would stabilize him so he could come back home. Roger is a fixture at the house and we would love to have him back. As I write this letter in late January we still don’t know what will become of Roger, but it’s looking like he won’t be returning to the house.

When I shared this story at our Monday morning Catholic Worker Mass in Redwood City, Larry Purcell of the Redwood CityCatholic Worker House remarked, “Another successful hospitality.” I was taken aback by Larry’s comment, but I knew what he meant. We got to know Roger as a regular guest at the dining room and shelter. He had been homeless for years and that life had taken a toll on him; when we brought him into the house he was getting to the point where he physically could no longer live outside. Roger found a home at our Second Ave house. For over ten years he had stable, decent housing, a community of friends who cared about him and looked after him, and a place where he could give back by helping keep the kitchen clean—he particularly loved washing dishes, which is always a sure fire way to gain popularity! He also brought great joy to the house with his “demented” humor. I also think of how Mike S., a resident of the house, cared for Roger the past several years: doing his laundry, shopping for him, changing his bandages, and helping him with electronics, like his phone and TV. Without Mike’s aid Roger would have been out of the house years ago. Instead, he was able to have several more years of independent living. So, yes, Larry was right, Roger’s time with us was a success.

Larry’s comment on success also made me think about what is “success.” To be honest, I’m not usually motivated by the traditional notion of “success”—How many people did you serve? How many people got jobs or housing? And so on. Instead I tend to focus on such questions as: did the dining room open on time? Is it a welcoming environment for our guests? Was there plenty of good food? Was there hot water for the shower? Do our boarding homes provide permanent affordable housing that the residents are proud to call home? Do we treat our guests with dignity and respect? My hope is that the answer to these questions is always a resounding “YES!” But to be honest there are times when the answer is “mostly, usually, could be better.”

We are continually trying to improve our facilities and the services we provide to our guests. To borrow a phrase from 12-step programs, “we seek progress not perfection.” If we have had any “success” over the years it’s been due to your continued support of our work, and for that we are very thankful. We hope that you will continue to help make our work possible through your generous donations.


In Christ’s Peace,

Peter Stiehler
For all of us at
Catholic Worker Hospitality House

Christmas Appeal

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler


Dear Friends,

In our world today it seems the Christmas season is primarily viewed as a time of giving and receiving gifts instead of honoring the birth of Jesus. You can’t turn on the television or walk into a store without being barraged with Christmas merchandising. To be honest, I can’t claim to be totally innocent of this myself, I like giving and receiving gifts. There is nothing wrong with this, as it is a way that we demonstrate our love and affection to another, but obviously it shouldn’t be the focus of Christmas.

In the Gospel of Matthew (ch. 2) we see the Magi bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh as an expression of their adoration of the baby Jesus. While these tangible gifts are admirable, and in the case of the Magi largely symbolic, the deeper question is what are the true gifts we are to bring to God?

A couple of examples from the Hebrew Scriptures of what we should give to God immediately spring to mind. First, there is Psalm 51: For in sacrifice (gift giving) you take no delight, burnt offering from me you would refuse, my sacrifice (gift) a contrite spirit, a humble contrite heart you will not spurn. Then there is the prophet Micah (6:8): You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is asked by a Pharisee what is the greatest commandment, he responds simply: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself. (Mt.22:34-39)

It seems to me that the greatest gift we can give to God is our lives. A beautiful example of giving back as an example of thankfulness is that of Mark, a long-time shelter guest who is one of the new residents at our Second Ave house. Usually when someone from the dining room or shelter receives permanent housing we rarely, if ever, see that person again. But in Mark’s case we now see more of him as he started coming to our dining room every morning to clean the bathrooms at the end of our serving time. I expressed how appreciative I was of this gift and that he didn’t have to do it. He responded “This is my way of thanking you (and all at CWHH) for what you’ve done for me.” I was deeply moved. I was even more moved a few weeks later when Mark and Darla, the other new resident at the house, helped George (a VERY long time guest at the shelter) find permanent housing. For years I, and other staff members have been trying everything we know to urge George to get housing, but he was very resistant. Then Mark, his long-time friend whom he trusts and listens to, started assisting him. First, Mark took George to Social Security to get him on SSI which increased his monthly check from a couple of hundred to close to $1000 a month; then he helped George set up a bank account so he could deposit both the social security money and a small inheritance he had recently received. But then the question arose of how to get George into permanent housing? This is where Darla steps into the picture. She talked with her former landlord, who operates several boarding houses in the area, and convinced her to accept George as a tenant. The landlord had concerns about George, but she decided to rent to him as she trusted Darla. Next thing we knew George had signed a lease and moved into permanent housing. All this because Mark and Darla wanted to give back for all they have received; they expressed their love of God through serving and comforting others. What better way to give thanks and praise to God for all we have received in our lives?

This is what we attempt to do at Catholic Worker Hospitality House on a daily basis. We try to express our love and commitment to God through loving our neighbor (the daily practice of the Works of Mercy). What better gift can we give God? For over twenty-six years we have been able to continue our work because of your generous support. We hope this Christmas season you will continue sharing your gifts with us so we can continue serving those most in need in our community.


In Christ’s Peace,

Peter Stiehler
For all of us at
Catholic Worker Hospitality House


Gift Ideas

If you’re interested in providing a gift for one of our guests, may we suggest the following: sweatshirt, thermal underwear, hat and gloves, socks, or underwear. Whether homeless or housed, our guests spend a lot of time in the cold and would appreciate any of these items. Gift cards are also very much appreciated, especially for places where folks can pass the time: coffee houses, restaurants, movie theatres. We thank you for your generosity in helping to make this holiday season special for our guests.

Christmas Dinner Needs

We will once again be hosting a Christmas Dinner for all our guests. This year we will be able to return to a sit down meal after a couple of years of serving food to-go only. Can you help us host our annual Christmas dinner for our guests by cooking part of the meal? We need:

  • Ham, cooked and carved
  • Potato dishes
  • Cookies, pie, or cake
  • individual milk, juice, or soda

Please bring food donations between 10:00am – 11:30am Thursday, December 22. We will be serving the meal between 11:30am – 1:30pm that day. Food can be brought to our dining room at St. Bruno’s Church, located at 555 w. San Bruno Ave. in San Bruno. Please call us at (650) 827-0706 if you can bring anything or if you have any questions. Thank you!

September Appeal: Completed ADU with Photos

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler


Dear Friends,

On a Thursday evening in late July, a water main broke at St Bruno’s church, thus shutting off the water to the building where we operate our dining room and homeless shelter. We were able to keep the shelter open that night, but without water we could not operate the dining room as usual the next morning and all we were able to do was serve coffee and cold cereal to go. While folks were understanding of the situation, they were really upset that they had no access to toilets (“Oh man, I really gotta go.”). We often don’t realize how important access to toilets are to those we serve until they are not available. When we talk about our work we usually emphasize the showers, food, and shelter we offer to our guests, which are obviously important, but for people who are homeless, access to toilets is a vital need and a constant struggle to find. Every morning we make sure to open the bathrooms in the adjacent building even before we open the dining room. Whether it’s relieving bodily functions or washing up, access to a bathroom is the first thing many of our guests want when they arrive. For those of us with homes and resources, we rarely if ever have to deal with this reality. Whether it’s at home, a store, or restaurant, we always have access to facilities.

I have long felt that “provide toilets to those who need to go” should be added to the list of the Works of Mercy. This may educe a snicker, but when we really think about it we know it’s true. Being able to relieve oneself or wash up is such a basic human need that access to facilities, or lack thereof, strongly affects our dignity and self-worth.

Thankfully, repairs to the broken pipe were quickly made on Friday morning and everything was back to normal by the time we opened the shelter on Friday evening. This episode really brought home to us the importance of the bathroom services we provide to those who are homeless in our community. We do our best to make sure we have plenty of clean, functioning bathrooms for those we serve, and quickly fix any messes, clogs, leaks, or whatever that may hamper their utility.



I hope you are sitting down as you read this, because I am very happy to announce that the ADU (auxiliary dwelling unit) we have been building since September 2021 is finally occupied.

This new permanent affordable housing we have created is currently occupied by three long-time residents of the “main house” at 672 2nd Avenue in San Bruno. On Thursday, July 14 the first resident moved in and on Sunday, July 17 the remaining residents moved in. The morning after his first night in his new room Fletcher greeted me in the driveway with a big smile and a “high five” saying, “I love my new room!” It was the most emotion I had ever seen from this normally staid individual. As an elderly man in his late 70s with bad legs Fletcher is happy to have a ground level bedroom instead of one on the second floor. His new living arrangement will definitely improve his quality of living and extend the years he will be able to live independently. I also have received repeated sincere thanks from Mike and Jen, the other new ADU residents, “You really outdid yourself this time. The place is not only beautiful, but it feels like a real home. Thank you!”

The move of these individuals in the ADU opened up two rooms for new residents in the main house. They moved in a couple of days later, after I had time to clean and paint the vacated rooms. The first, Mark, had been a long-time guest at our homeless shelter. He really appreciates being able to come home directly after work instead of biding time at a coffee house or library until the shelter opens. The other, Becky, had been living in a not-nice-at-all boarding house. She is happy to live in a house where she actually likes the people she’s living with now and doesn’t feel the need to hide out in her room to avoid bad roommates. Needless to say, but all these new residents are so glad to have permanent affordable housing that is safe, welcoming, and communal. Mark and Becky too have been effusive in their thanks for their new housing. Seeing how happy and grateful these five people are has made all the work, stress, and expense of the project well worth it.

While all the thanks have been directed to me, in reality the thanks belongs to all of you whose generosity, whether large or small, enabled us to build this beautiful new home and to maintain the existing home. So I accept their thanks, but pass them on to you.

“Over the past six to eight months, I have been bemoaning in our appeal letters delays in this project. While the work on the ADU did not move as quickly as I expected or wanted, the contractor’s bid was $100,000 less than other contractors which is why I chose him. And in my opinion a five to seven month delay is well worth saving $100,000!”

When we started this project I really thought that we would have to go into debt to complete it. But thanks to your great generosity, picking an inexpensive contractor, and doing a fair amount of work myself, we have been able to complete this project without going into debt. While we are not in debt, finishing this project in late summer, when our funds are generally low, is forcing us to be extra careful with our spending. As always, we are deeply thankful for your generous support of this project and all our work with those in need in our community, and make a plea for your continued generosity which enables us to maintain our usual services at the dining room and Shelter as well as putting the final touches on the new house.


In Christ’s Peace,

Peter Stiehler
For all of us at
Catholic Worker Hospitality House


June Appeal

“Roger, you HAVE to go to the hospital, TONIGHT, NOW! I can drive you, but you have to go.“ I stumbled onto this conversation on the back porch of our Second Ave boarding house in mid-April. Mike S., with back up from Howard, was urging Roger to go to the hospital as he had complained of copious amounts of blood in his stools and urine. I too supported Mike’s insistence and offered to drive as I was leaving shortly to pick up Jennifer who was visiting her husband, Mike D., at San Mateo County Hospital (more on that later). Roger relented without much of a fight as even he realized the seriousness of his situation.

I often categorize the people who live at our Second Ave boarding house in San Bruno as a bunch of grumpy old men who generally mind their own affairs and only interact on the smoking porch. As in most stereotypes this contains a kernel of truth, but not the whole truth. The residents of the house do care for each other and do what they can to ensure the well being of each other.

When I returned from the hospital I complemented Mike on his concern for Roger’s well being. I’ve known for a while that Mike helps Roger, but I didn’t realize how much. Roger is elderly, overweight, and has difficulty walking, particularly going up and down stairs, due to bad knees. So Mike does his laundry; makes minor food and cigarette runs to the convenience store; and, most impressively, changes the bandages on Roger’s legs (he has cracking and bleeding on his legs due to severe edema). Without Mike’s assistance Roger would have a much lower quality of living and would likely be in some sort of assisted living facility.

But Roger is not always on the receiving end of acts of kindness. Having a car, he often plays chauffeur for some of the other residents for weekly trips to the grocery store. He regularly tells housemates to leave their dirty dishes in the sink, as washing dishes is his way of helping out. Roger is not alone in his acts of kindness. Howard, besides working at the shelter one night a week, is available for electrical repairs, and with assistance from Martha, always makes sure that the shelter laundry gets done in a timely fashion. Then there’s Mike D., Jennifer, and Fletcher who welcome and accept donations that are delivered to the house. All this is done in addition to the household chores everyone does to keep the house clean and orderly.

Fifteen years ago when we started using the Second Avenue house for permanent housing my hope was to provide supportive affordable housing for some of our shelter guests, particularly for those who would have the hardest time renting a place normally. At the time I thought that I would be the one supporting the residents. But overtime I have seen the residents be the ones supporting not only each other, but our work at the Catholic Worker Hospitality House as well.

Really, what I’m talking about here is mutual aid. In the United States we all too often subscribe to the belief of the rugged individualist, whose successes or failures are theirs alone. In my experience, this is total bunk. We need others and whether we accept it or not, we are all part of a web of support that makes our successes and quality of life possible. “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” From personal experience when I play the “rugged individualist,” or should I say the “isolationist,” I’m neither happy nor healthy. When I help others, when I rely upon others, and when I work with others for a common good is exactly when I, and those I interact with, are happier, healthier, and better off.

As always we thank you for your ongoing support that makes our work possible. It is through such generosity (or shall we say, mutual aid) that we are able to continue feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick, and comforting the afflicted. We hope that you will continue helping us help others.

In Christ’s Peace,

Peter Stiehler
For all of us at
Catholic Worker Hospitality House


Mike DiCampli Health Update:
Many of y’all know Mike DiCampli from his work at the dining room on Friday mornings or from his greeting you when dropping off donations at our Second Ave house. Well, we almost lost Mike to diverticulitis in April. After feeling terrible for several days his wife Jennifer insisted he go to County Hospital. Doctors quickly diagnosed him with diverticulitis and began pumping him with antibiotics. An emergency surgery removed a grapefruit sized “puss ball” that, if it had burst, would have led to sepsis and killed him. To state the obvious, we are all glad that didn’t happen. Mike is still weak and recovering from his surgery, but getting better everyday. In a month or so he will have another surgery to remove the section of intestine damaged by diverticulitis and infection. Please keep Mike in your thoughts and prayers.

April Appeal

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

I rarely use reprints from other Catholic Worker Houses for our newsletter, but when I read the following article from the March 2022 issue of Manna in the Wilderness, the newsletter from the Las Vegas Catholic Worker, I knew I had to print it. In this piece Julia so beautifully captures why I, and so many others, are attracted to the Catholic Worker Movement, what keeps us there, and what the work is like. -Peter Stiehler, Catholic Worker Hospitality House. 


A Decision to Love

by Julia Occhiogrosso

In the summer of 1979, when I visited my sister at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, I was introduced to a community of adults who were following in the footsteps of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, co-founders of the Catholic Worker movement. Founded in 1933, the movement was borne out of a renewed gospel vision for the call to love as the guiding principle for all interactions. 

The bold idealism stirred me, and experimenting with this utopian vision of love in action felt meaningful. Performing the Works of Mercy is one way the Catholic Worker put this love to the text. Feeding the hungry on our food lines or sheltering the homeless in our hospitality houses gives us an opportunity to practice. 

In Las Vegas, through our hospitality houses, we have had relationships with impoverished people who when given food, shelter and a safe place are able to cultivate their potential beyond raw survival. Given the opportunity, they discover gifts and talents and off themselves to others in generosity and joy. Even with its imperfections and challenges, hospitality is an ancient expression of gospel love that can yield healing and hope and capture a glimpse of the beloved community. We have a preview of the heavenly banquet, where people of diverse backgrounds find care and connection with each other. 

Then there are those whose internal struggles are so great that they aren’t able to accept simple hospitality – like Von – who rode the bus all night, declining any invitation for shelter, even sleeping on our couch. We have witnessed many behavioral obstacles limiting quality of life. 

How do you love people who struggle to love themselves, who time and time again sabotage the help they are given, struggle with telling the truth, manipulate situations to get what they want, or lash out and show no respect or reciprocity? These behaviors would compel even their strongest admirers to give up on them. How does a bold gesture of idyllic love fare in these circumstances? 

Many of us have known someone who has behaved like this – perhaps a friend, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, son or daughter. People we have been bonded to, whom we may remember as children of innocence, potential and beauty. Bonds have evolved into fragmented relationships that haunt us with grief, regret, confusion and feelings of powerlessness. We are left yearning for their healing, and praying for alleviations of their self-inflicted suffering. 

To love in these circumstances requires learning how to love with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul. 

One needs a heart tender enough to sense the woundedness beneath the difficult and alienating behaviors. A heart that can access its capacity for empathy, that’s wise enough to get out of the way when targeted with projection and anger, and that learns how not to personalize or feel the conflict that belongs to the person acting out. 

Love needs a heart that knows its limits and knows how to set boundaries. to say no to harmful behaviors while saying yes to the goodness and sacredness buried beneath the pain is a way to cultivate a balanced response. Boundaries, balance and accountability are impactful because they model self-love. They can work to protect and replenish us from destructive and exhausting dynamics. To have the strength to love in these circumstances, we need an informed mind. We need the willingness to search out and understand the possible causes of the behaviors. There are ample studies that correlate early trauma to a variety of psychological, emotional and cognitive difficulties. These difficulties are often expressed through addictions, anti-social behaviors, aggression and isolation. 

While this knowledge may not make the dynamic easier, it at least can help us to judge less harshly and put things in perspective. Love asks us to reserve judgment and choose gestures of full acceptance. To suspend judgment is not meant to condone negative or destructive behaviors, but rather to foster an acceptance that recognizes that these behaviors are only part of the full person. Acceptance enables us to embrace the person in their totality. 

When we use our mind, we can learn helpful ways to respond to negative behaviors. When I worked in Colorado as a therapeutic foster parent, I learned responses to help teens who were struggling because of early trauma. One of the most tragic consequences of early trauma is its damage to a person’s ability to trust. These children needed calm, nonreactive environments. I learned how to not react to challenging behaviors. Over time, this helped these behaviors to decrease. 

A serious trust wound impedes our capacity for healthy relationships. A life void of authentic relationships leads to profound loneliness. Even the sincerest gestures of love are unable to penetrate the wall. Thoughtful reflection on this helps us to see that the only just response is mercy and forgiveness a thousandfold. 

And finally, it is within our souls that we will access the inexhaustible potential of love. Our soul’s strength enables us to transcend our human limitations and opens us to the mystery of grace. Within the soul realm dwells the energy of our true selves – born of and for divine love. Within this realm we can lay to rest our ego needs and fears. When we give ourselves to stillness and attention to our soul, we will find a safe space to breathe and let go of all that we do not understand and cannot control. Here we can be with suffering, grief, and loss and allow it to expand our heart, mind, and soul into an ever-deepening capacity for love.

As a young person I was attracted to the bold invitation to love perfectly; I knew the Beatles song very well: All You Need Is Love. Living in the Catholic Worker community, I’ve had a chance to prove it. 

Now, nearly forty years later, I resonate more with a quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Brother Karamazov often referenced by Dorothy Day: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”

My youthful spin on Gospel love was quickly pierced when I attempted to put the dream into practice. Then I was (and still am) met with my limitations and woundedness. My fears and my needs often sabotage even the most sincere of efforts. 

Even with this, I am compelled to continue as a seeker of perfect love. Not because of a mandate but because even with its challenges and sufferings, its harsh and dreadful residuals, it holds the promise of becoming fully human and the gift of abundant life. Even with its tedious moment-to-moment demands, it is finally, for me, the only path to healing and transformation for myself and for our wounded world. 

Julia Occhiogrosso is the founder of the Las Vegas Catholic Worker.


ADU Update

In what is becoming an unfortunately common refrain: the ADU is not yet finished, but progress is coming along. I am doing what I can to push the project forward while also doing my best to accept delays. In this, the Serenity Prayer has been very helpful: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Thy will be done, not mine.” Why the delay? Partly it’s issues with the supply chain delays (windows and labor), but mostly it’s contractor issues. If I would have picked a different contractor we would be done by now. Live and learn, I should have known better. I wish I could give a definite date for occupancy, but it’s out of my control. That said, if it’s not done by une you might see me on the evening news doing something rash (a little humor to soften the frustration). I try to keep in mind that this project will eventually be finished and will provide much needed dignified housing to those we serve.