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

Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

Can you bring food for our Thanksgiving Dinner?

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

Dear Friends,

Thanksgiving will soon be upon us and Catholic Worker Hospitality House will once again host a Thanksgiving Dinner for all our guests. Last year, due to COVID, we could only serve meals To-Go, this year we will return to serving a festive sit down meal for all our guests. We once again turn to you to make this special meal possible. In the past you have brought food to share with all of our guests for a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Can you help us again this year? Can you bring one or more of the following:

  • Turkey, cooked and carved to serve ten
  • Pie, cake or cookies
  • Mashed potatoes or stuffing for ten
  • Apple cider or milk
  • Vegetable dish for ten
  • Paper plates, napkins, to go containers

If you can provide any of these items please call us at (650) 827-0706.

Food is to be brought to our dining room at St. Bruno’s Church, located at 555 W. San Bruno Ave., between 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, Nov. 25). The meal will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.. PLEASE call to tell us what you can bring so we can plan accordingly.

Please consider yourself invited to our Thanksgiving Dinner. We know many of you are far from family or perhaps without family. Thanksgiving is the time we remember that we are all part of God’s family: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you all are one in Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)

Thank you so much for your continued generosity.

Peace,

Peter Stiehler
For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House

ADU Update

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler
In early September we broke ground on our new affordable housing project in the backyard of our house on Second Ave in San Bruno. Once complete it will provide two more permanent bedrooms of permanent housing for those we serve. As the accompanying pictures show the framing is largely finished and we can get a real sense of how the building will look once completed.
It’s a truism in any building project that the client is always dissatisfied with the pace of construction, and we are no different. While we are happy with the progress that has been made, we wish things were moving along quicker. The torrential rainstorm we experienced on Sunday, October 24 hit just before the contractors had planned on roofing the building (of course) and will delay progress by a week or two. UGH! Such is life in construction. We are still hoping for a February move in date and we will keep you updated on the progress of construction.
Finally, we want to thank all of you who responded so generously to our September appeal for assistance with funds for the ADU. Your generosity will enable us to complete the project without going into debt or taking funds from our other projects. Thank you all so much!

September Appeal

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

SEPTEMBER 2021

Dear Friends,

This past spring while discussing edits to our anniversary newsletter with my daughter Ella, she remarked, “You know Dad, it seems that most of the projects at Catholic Worker Hospitality House that have been successful over the years have been the ones to do with housing.”  I had never thought of that before, but she was right.  Whether it’s our emergency homeless shelter, our transitional housing for people coming out of prison or our various permanent affordable housing units, there is such a need for housing that it’s hard to go wrong.  At the risk of spouting a cliché: “If you build it they will come.”

I think particularly about our boarding houses.  Whenever someone has the opportunity to get a room in one of our houses they feel like they’ve won the lottery.  They are shocked to learn that they’ll have their own room in a nice house for such a minimal rent.  I let them know that as long as they keep the place clean, are a good roommate, and pay rent, they’ll have a room for as long as they like. I always tell them, “This is permanent housing; it’s neither short term nor transitional.”  

Catholic Worker Hospitality House exists to respond to the needs of our community and over the years we have tried a variety of projects to address different problems our guests face.  This disbelief our boarding house residents feel when they’re first invited to live in one of our houses is due to how unaffordable living has become in the Bay Area.  In the Bay Area there is the one overarching problem that permeates everything – the high cost of housing.  With rent prices soaring for decades, even when our guests have full-time jobs or are receiving Social Security checks, those we serve are often unable to pay the exorbitant price of rent that has now become “normal.”  It should not be normal for people to be working full-time jobs and still struggle to feed and house themselves.  Therefore, it’s not really surprising that our housing projects have been the most successful. It’s the greatest issue our guests face and the biggest problem in our community.  So of course the profoundest way we can impact their lives is by providing affordable, permanent housing. 

It’s an obvious problem with an obvious solution, but it took us a while to realize that we had the ability to provide some of this much-needed affordable housing.  We had been operating our dining room and homeless shelter for ten years before we started using the Second Ave house in San Bruno as a boarding house fifteen years ago and it was such a success that when money became available we purchased a house in South San Francisco to provide more housing, then later added on to the Second Ave house when funds once again became available.  We are always looking for an opportunity to increase the amount of permanent affordable housing we are able to offer those we serve as the need just continues to increase.

Artist rendering of what our ADU will look like.

This house under construction, while not ours, is exactly what our ADU will look like and has the same architectural plans.

Well, we’re expanding again. For at least 15 years Kate and I have dreamed of building an ADU (auxiliary dwelling unit, “in-law unit”) in the backyard of our Second Ave. house.  Until recently city zoning restrictions prevented us from doing so, but over the past few years state mandated changes to those regulations now make it possible for us to build the ADU of our dreams.  This ADU will allow us to expand the amount of permanent affordable housing we are able to provide to those we serve at our dining room and homeless shelter.

After years of dreaming and planning, events are now moving fast.  In mid-July we received final approval of our building plans from the San Bruno building department.  As I write in late August we are deciding upon a contractor and expect to break ground on the project in early September.  If all goes well the ADU will be completed and occupied by January or February of 2022.  We will keep you apprised of the building progress in upcoming newsletters, as well as on our website and Facebook page.

Can you help us make this dream a reality? We expect the project to cost $350,000.  We have already raised $200,000, but will need another $150,000 to complete the project. We realize this is a huge sum of money, but it has been our experience over the years that many people giving whatever they can allows us to do great things.  Any amount you can give will be helpful in enabling us to complete this project.

As always we thank you for your ongoing support of our work.  Your generosity enables us to not only maintain our current service projects, but to have the courage to make our big dreams a reality.

 

In Christ’s Peace,

 

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at

Catholic Worker Hospitality House

 

In Loving Memory of Michael Thompson

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

On Tuesday, August 24 2021 Mike Thompson passed away after a long battle with lung cancer.   Mike was a life-long San Bruno resident and long-time resident of our Second Ave boarding house.  We were able to host in-home hospice care for Mike for most of his illness, but he spent his final three weeks at St. Francis Convalescent Pavilion in Daly City.  We first got to know Mike twenty years ago as a guest at our dining room and homeless shelter.  Thirteen years ago when we turned our Second Ave house into a boarding home Mike was one of the first people I brought into the house.  I quickly came to depend on Mike as the informal house manager.  He would take out the trash, wash the shelter laundry, and let me know if there were any problems at the house.   His presence made my job much easier and the house a nicer place for the other residents. 

Hanging out on the back porch together, Mike and I often bonded over sports.  In typical male fashion it was always a safe and easy source of conversation.  We had our yearly big money bet ($1) on the Texas-Oklahoma football game.  Having been born in Oklahoma, Mike was a fan of the “land-thieves” from north of the Red River.  While it was fun to watch the game together, I sadly often lost the bet.  

At Catholic Worker we too often only see our guests at their worst or “past their prime.”  In 2013 we got to see a different side of Mike.  Mike grew up in the Rollingwood neighborhood of San Bruno and attended Crestmoor High School and was featured in the book “Michael and the Whiz Kids” by John Christgau.  Christgau was the head coach of the school’s “lightweight basketball” team (a high school league for smaller players).  The book chronicled the team’s 1968 championship season, focusing on what it was like for Mike as the only black kid on the team and in the school.  The book was a good read and it gave me an opportunity to see a different side of Mike.

Living at the Second Ave house enabled Mike to restore stability and dignity to his life.  This led to him reconnecting with his son and grandchildren after years of marginal contact.   It was always heartening seeing Mike and his son spending time together, usually they just talked and argued about sports, but it was easy to tell they enjoyed each other’s company.  I loved the backyard cookouts and domino games that Mike would host with his family and friends which brought such joy to the house. 

We are so thankful to have had Mike be a part of our work and life for over twenty years.  He was a blessing and a joy, even with his grumpy old man façade.  Rest in peace Mike, you will be greatly missed.

Mike Thompson on the back porch of the Second Avenue house.

From a Sapling to an Oak Tree

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

Recently I was doing some yard work at our Second Ave house in San Bruno when I stopped to look at the two large oak trees in the front yard. My thought was, “How did these trees get so big?” These oaks are so large and stately that it would be easy to assume that they have been around for generations. The truth is Kate and I planted these oaks 25 years ago as spindly saplings in one-gallon pots. At the time it would have been generous to call them trees. For years it was a challenge to keep them from being overgrown by grass and run over by the lawnmower. Over the years these spindly saplings grew into bushy awkward trees and finally, with some timely pruning, they have become stately trees.

Since we planted these trees shortly after we moved into the house, I often equate their growth and maturity with the growth and maturity of the Catholic Worker Hospitality House in San Bruno. Most of our supporters have known us only for the past five to ten years, after we were already a fairly mature organization. It’s easy to forget that we went through years of being an awkward organization struggling to find our way. Just as I mused over how the trees got so stately, I often wonder how our little Catholic Worker House grew from one house of hospitality and dining room to now having a homeless shelter and four houses of hospitality. It still amazes me. But with patience, perseverance, “pruning,” some luck, and a ton of support we have grown into a mature organization that, we hope, is a valued presence in the community serving those most in need.

Your generous and faithful support over the years has enabled our work to grow from a “spindly sapling to a stately oak.” We thank you for your past support and hope that you will continue to help us not only to continue our work of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and comforting the afflicted, but of dreaming of new ways to serve those in need in our community.

Peace,

Peter Stiehler
Director
Catholic Worker Hospitality House