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

News Archive

13 Articles

Shelter Changes

by Peter Stiehler

September 2017

Dear Friends,

I’m a strong believer in stability and routine. I personally thrive on it and, believe it’s good for the work we do with those in need in our community. In the nearly twenty years that Catholic Worker Hospitality House has been operating our little homeless shelter on the grounds of St. Bruno’s Catholic Church we’ve been blessed with great stability in the overnight staffing at the shelter. It has been over a decade since we’ve had any turnover in our shelter staffing. And I believe the experience our guests have at our shelter is better for that stability. But over the first half of this year we’ve had several changes in our shelter staff that I’d like to share with you.

Many of you know Eddison from the shelter and dining room. For twenty years, Eddison has been a part of our dining room and shelter community and for the past eleven years has worked as one of our overnight shelter staff (with Pat being the other staff person). He’s a bald, burly man with a winning smile and infectious laugh. I have always loved how he joyfully welcomes guests, volunteers, and donors. However, last November Eddison had a major health episode that landed him in the hospital for six weeks. Our hope (and his) was that after a period of recuperation Eddison would be back working at the shelter. But sadly that has not been the case. It quickly became apparent that his health issues are severe enough to prevent him from returning to work.

While we were shocked and saddened by Eddison’s health crisis, we also needed to scramble to find at least a temporary replacement for him. Sitting in the dining room one morning around this time I pondered, “Whom can I get to take Eddison’s place…and quick?” I was stumped. Then I saw Dean sitting at another table talking with other guests and thought, “perfect.” Dean is a long-time dining room guest, a former resident at one of our housing units, and a super nice guy. When I told him of the situation and our need for help he quickly and happily offered to cover for Eddison. When I later told him Eddison wouldn’t be returning to work, he said he could work until summer, but didn’t want to stay on permanently. Dean spoiled us during his tenure. He was great with the guests, an organizing and cleaning machine, and would help at the dining room when we were short-handed. In July we bid him a fond farewell as he departed for some much deserved rest and relaxation. We are so thankful for the time Dean gave to the shelter (and dining room).

We now have Gary working at the shelter. Another really nice guy and long-time part of the dining room and shelter community, he has settled into his job nicely and is happy to have a stable job where he is helping others. Having stayed at the shelter before he knows the routine, what it’s like staying in a shelter, and the importance of treating all the guests with dignity and respect. We too are happy to have Gary as part of the shelter team.

The last change is that I’m now working one shift a week at the shelter, something I haven’t done in nearly twenty years. It’s good for me, as the supervisor of the shelter, to actually spend time working there. I now have a deeper understanding of shelter life and appreciation of the work done by Pat, Eddison, Dean, and now Gary. Just like every other person at the shelter, I would prefer not to be there, but rather in my own bed in my own home. Still, our shelter meets a desperate need for those we serve and we do our best to provide a dependable, safe, and welcoming place for those without a place to lay their heads at night.

As always, we give thanks for all your past support of our work, your generosity has enabled Catholic Worker Hospitality House to be a stable and welcoming place for those in need in our community for over twenty years. We hope you will continue helping us help others.

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House


  • Old-fashioned oatmeal
  • Canned Fruit
  • Milk and margarine
  • Sandwich bags and brown lunch bags
  • Flatware (forks, spoons, knives)
  • Coffee Mugs
  • Monday volunteers at the dining room
  • Money, for our ongoing expenses


Catholic Worker Hospitality House is now able to accept donations by credit and debit cards. Currently we can process a donation by getting the card information by phone and we are in the process of having a portal installed on our website ( for credit or debit card donations, it will hopefully be up in early September. We also have a PayPal account on our website if that works better for you. Please call if you have any questions about donating electronically.


While there are still some finishing touches to do on our Tiny House, we are finally at the point where it is habitable and ready to be taken to different locations to show its potential for affordable housing in our communities.

We are thankful for the many volunteers who made the project possible: Wayne Burdick for helping with designing the interior layout; Cristian Cabrera, owner of JStyle at Home, for the beautiful custom-made cabinetry; Bethany Presbyterian Church for hosting the Tiny House during construction; all our donors whose generosity made it possible for us to build; and most of all to Aaron Castle. The house simply could not have been built without Aaron– he envisioned and constructed the interior build-out of the house (with some help from Peter). His skill and artistry is immediately apparent upon entering the Tiny House.

We are still looking for permanent home for our Tiny House. We are looking for a homeowner, congregation, organization, or business to host the Tiny House. If you’re interested give Kate Chatfield a call at 650-827-0706. Thank you.

Whoever You Are, You’re Welcome Here

by Peter Stiehler

June 2017

Dear Friends,

At Catholic Worker Hospitality House we are blessed with a great diversity of guests and volunteers: African-Americans, Anglos, Latinos from many nations, Filipinos, Chinese, and Pacific Islanders to name a few. We revel in the diversity of our guests and use humor to show the absurdity of intolerance. Most mornings when I open the dining room I “ostracize” one group and welcome and other: “no white guys today, only Filipinos” or “No Mexicans. Oh, you’re Salvadorean? Well, come on in.” I can joke because everyone is in on the joke—it is a joke about the world and about all of us. For twenty-one years we’ve welcomed all who come to us in need.

I’ve always been inspired by the signboard at Bethany Presbyterian Church in San Bruno, which reads: “Whoever you are, you’re welcome here.” It’s a lovely sentiment that the congregation faithfully embodies. We too strive to embody this ethic at Catholic Worker Hospitality House. While we do our best to treat everyone fairly and equally, we put a little more effort in welcoming the immigrants, especially those with a language barrier. My Spanish is limited and my knowledge of Chinese consists of three words, still it’s easy to get across that a person is welcome and accepted. I think this is why our guests not only put up with my silliness, but join in the fun themselves. When I open the door, Juan will often say “no Mexicans, no Mexicans” and then is the first one in the door. But my favorite was when Kathy, a chronically homeless woman, said “no homeless today!” What all this joking highlights is that race or national origins really don’t matter. We are all one in the eyes of God.

“Whoever you are, you are welcome here.” This extreme inclusiveness is inspired by the life of Jesus. In reading the gospels it seems Jesus is always breaking some religious or societal norm by reaching out to and welcoming the alien, the outcast, and the undesirable.

Whether it’s a hated and feared Roman soldier, tax collector, prostitute, or leper Jesus acknowledges them before others. He shows love and acceptance, and in the process brings about healing and reconciliation. People who were outcasts are welcome back into the community.

While we haven’t healed any lepers or walked on water, we do try to be like Jesus in our daily work by practicing radical hospitality–welcoming all as unique and precious children of God. And in the process we have created a polyglot community where everyone is accepted regardless of their skin color, national origin, native tongue, dress, or illness.

As always, we give thanks for your past support of our work with those in need and plead for your continued support. It is through such generosity that we are able to continue being a presence of radical hospitality.

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House


  • Canned soup
  • Sugar (White and brown)
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Napkins
  • Forks and spoons
  • Money, for our ongoing expenses


Summer is here, which means it’s time to break out the blankets and warm clothing. Ah, life in San Bruno.

The wet winter and spring has depleted our supply of blankets and sleeping bags. Could you pass on your old and unused blankets to replenish our supply? Your generosity will enable us to have plenty of blankets for our shelter guests and to provide warmth to our dining room guests who are either sleeping in their car or outside.



At Catholic Worker Hospitality House we realize that our work is made possible by your generosity. For the past twenty-one years we have been able to be a stable source of succor for those in need in our community because of your kindness. For the past twenty-one years we have been able to dream of and enflesh new and innovative projects because of your kindness. We are thankful and humbled by this faithful support. From all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House we say: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.





Calling it Home

by Peter Stiehler

April 2017

Dear Friends,

Not long ago I was sitting on the back porch at the Second Ave. house chatting with the guys when one of the Mikes joked, “Peter, you’ve finally got the commune you always wanted.” He was referring to the extra people we had working with us and living at the house—Christine working at the dining room, Candace and Aaron living at the house and assisting with the tiny house project, and various residents regularly volunteering at the dining room. While Mike was playfully referring to my days of living in intentional communities, he was accurately portraying the nature of the house: there are unrelated people living together, sharing resources, and engaged in a common work. Still, our house on Second Ave. is NOT a commune in the 1960’s sense—there is no “free love” and definitely no nudity. And while the residents may at times be “in tension” living together, it’s not an “intentional community.” It is simply folks escaping homelessness by living together.

But Mike’s playfulness raises a large question: what should we call our house in San Bruno and the house in South San Francisco? This is something Kate and I have gone back and forth on for years, she calling them one thing and me another. It seems all the terms we use have a “Yes, but…” element to them, they kind of fit and kind of don’t.

Kate prefers the term “permanent supportive affordable housing,” which is accurate. Our houses provide permanent affordable housing for formerly homeless individuals and there is a supportive element to the houses that is not found in a typical rental (we cover all utilities, mediate household conflicts, assist with social services as needed, etc). But I’m uncomfortable calling it “supportive housing” as it denotes, to me, an inability of the residents to care for themselves, a dependency that I don’t feel exists as they cook, clean, and otherwise manage their own affairs.

I often use the term “boarding house.” I find it less of a mouthful than “permanent supportive affordable housing” and it’s a term with which most folks are familiar. In some ways the term is apt. But “boarding house” doesn’t quite fit either with its connotations of a run-down building with a miserly landlord and folks huddled in their individual rooms without a connection to the other residents. That definitely doesn’t describe our houses, where folks share meals together, socialize on the back porch, and look out for each other. There is a sense of community and belonging that brings joy to the lives of the residents. So, no, “boarding house” is not the proper term for our houses.

What then to call these houses? While our houses may have aspects of a commune, or supportive housing or a boarding house, none of the names seem to fit. I don’t want to use a term that’s either too clinical (permanent affordable supportive housing) or not representative of the reality of the house (boarding house, commune). Maybe we should just call it “home”– a non-traditional home, a strange home, but still a home for the folks who live there. I would like to think that the residents have found a home at our various houses. It is not fancy, and perhaps all would prefer their own house, but I also know how grateful each person is to be off the street and out of shelters. They are thankful for a permanent place to live. They appreciate living in a nice house with full amenities (furnished house, washer and dryer, landscaped backyard with chickens). And even the grumpiest of residents enjoy the companionship and friendships that exists at the house. When it comes down to it, we all want secure decent housing and people with whom to share our lives. We all want a home.

Your ongoing support has enabled us to create these homes for some of our former shelter guests and to dream of creating more (our tiny house project). We thank you for past support and hope you will continue helping us help others.

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House



  • Dish soap, cleanser, bleach
  • Laundry soap
  • Canned soup
  • Jelly
  • Milk and bread
  • Money, for our ongoing expenses


Is it a truism that building projects always take much longer than expected? Well, it sure is for our Tiny House Project. The delays are maddening, but we’re plodding along getting the house ready for someone to occupy. Since our February update we’ve installed cedar paneling and beautiful hand-milled trim (by Aaron). By the middle of April we should hopefully have the cabinets, plumbing, composting toilet and solar electrical system installed and functioning. We’re still working on getting the proper shower pan for the shower. We’re making progress, just not as quickly as we had.

We’ve working on finding a home for our tiny house. We’ve had preliminary talks regarding a couple of potential sites, but they’re still in the early discussion phase. If you, or your business, or your congregation are interested in hosting our tiny house once it’s completed and ready for occupancy, please give Peter a call at 650-291-2400.



It’s Gotta Be The Joy

by Kate Chatfield

Some say working the soup kitchen best defines the Catholic Worker.
Some say opening your home to the lonely and destitute best defines the Catholic Worker.
Some say resisting the war makers, doing the time, refusing to go along with the greed and violence best defines a Catholic Worker.
Some say it’s all of these, knowing full well that the best we can do is plant a few seeds, knowing full well the harvest is a long time coming.
But, deep down, really, in our hearts of hearts, we know…
It’s gotta be the joy!
You lose the joy, you lose it all.
No joy, no hope.
No joy, no endurance.
No joy, no understanding of suffering.
No joy, no meaning of life.
No joy, and it’s just another year on Guantanamo.
No joy, and we’re all just doing time on the planet.
Oh yeah-
It’s gotta be the joy!!

– BRENDAN WALSH, Viva House Catholic Worker, Baltimore.


Dear Friends,

I was so moved when I read the above poem by Brendan Walsh that I had to make it the focus of this letter as it speaks to why I’ve stayed a part of the Catholic Worker Movement for over twenty-five years. Brendan and his wife Willa co-founded Viva House in Baltimore and have been living the Catholic Worker life for nearly fifty years, working with the outcasts of a downtrodden city and speaking truth to power. So when he says, “it’s gotta be the joy,” he knows what he’s talking about. And if you ever spend time with Brendan and Willa you’ll feel the joy they radiate.

At first glance it may seem odd to say the hallmark of Catholic Worker life is joy as daily we’re surrounded by brokenness and suffering—folks living on the street, seeing long time guests fighting the demons of addiction and/or mental illness, alienation and separation, visits to jails and nursing homes. It’s enough to make one weep. Yet despite all this, the Catholic Worker is a surprisingly joyful place. I’m always amazed and uplifted when I am greeted at the dining room with smiles, fist pumps, and silly jokes or when I see folks chatting and laughing with friends over a hot meal or helping out around the dining room.

I guess the thinking is how can someone be joyful if they are destitute and broken physically or mentally? But anyone can be joyful, it doesn’t take money or prestige, it just takes the willingness to see the good around you, to let others into your life and to enter into the life of others, to be engaged in the affairs around you—joy comes from being involved.

I think that’s why the Catholic Worker Hospitality House is such a joyful place. It starts with relationships – the friendships and sense of belonging that develop when we open up to each other. Then there is the opportunity to assist. Whether volunteer, staffer, or guest, we are invigorated when we join others in meaningful work, when we help to make the dining room (and the world) a better place. It can be as simple as sweeping a floor or helping to serve meal, yet that simple act unites us to something larger and gives us purpose.

I know this letter is a bit “Pollyannaish.” I realize I have a tendency to focus on pleasant aspects of life rather than the unpleasant ones, but I seriously believe that if we’re to keep hope alive there must be joy. The joy we’re talking about here is not merely “smiles and laughs” (although those are abundant), it’s contentment and acceptance, a sense of peace. I think this is what Jesus means when he says, “Peace be with you. My Peace I give to you.” He’s saying, “you are loved and valued by God even with all your brokenness. Now go, share that love and work to make this world a better place.”

So at Catholic Worker Hospitality House we try to accept ourselves, love our neighbor, and continue our humble work. This is what keeps me going, it is joy that keeps us all going. We thank you for being a source of this joy. We thank you for helping make our work possible with your time, talents, and treasures.

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House

  • Canned Fruit
  • Coffee and creamer
  • Napkins
  • Rain ponchos
  • Money, for our ongoing expenses


We’re finally making progress on the interior build-out of our tiny house! We received our tiny house on Thanksgiving Day, but between the rush of the holidays and stormy weather we weren’t able to do much more than paint the exterior and finalize the interior floor plan by the middle of January. But over the past couple of weeks Aaron Castle and I (mostly Aaron) have insulated the interior, done rough installation of electrical and plumbing, framed the interior walls and platform bed, and meet with a finish carpenter who’s offered to help with cabinets and counter tops. After a slow start it’s encouraging to see the progress were now making.

In late December there were a couple of local newspaper articles about our Tiny House Project that brought us to the attention of San Bruno city officials. In mid-January we had a meeting with building, planning, and community development staff about our Tiny House Project which went as expected: they praised the work we do in the community, acknowledge the great need for affordable housing, and then said all the reasons why our tiny house on wheels does not meet their current building or zoning regulations. But we are all committed to further meetings to see how tiny houses can be a part of our community. We’ll continue with the process and see what happens. In the meantime we’ll continue working on the house and looking for a home for our tiny house. If you, or your business, or your congregation are interested in hosting our tiny house once it’s completed and ready for occupancy, please give Peter a call at 650-291-2400.


“No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless.”

by Kate Chatfield

“No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”         — Dorothy Day

December 2016

Dear Friends,

Since the November election, I’ve felt heartsick, hopeless, and fearful. I’ve been with young people in tears, terrified of being deported. I’ve sat with a young Muslim woman who was afraid to leave her apartment. I heard from a gay man who is painfully reminded of the bullying and belittling he was forced to endure throughout his childhood. Women are publicly denigrated, reduced to sexual objects; people of color are told that no, their lives and their human rights actually do not matter; Muslims are threatened with a registry and internment camps are hinted at; the physically disabled have been mocked; immigrants have been told that they will be deported. We have all been told that our planet is not worth saving; climate refugees are on their own.

And the poor? The homeless on our streets? There has been no suggestion that there will be any compassion for the least among us – the cold, the hungry, the physically and mentally ill. Christians are commanded to care the most for the stranger, the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned, the sick. The rich man who neglected Lazarus was condemned. Now, the rich man who has shown his contempt not only for so many human beings, but for the very notion of compassion, has millions of followers.

We began to despair. We realized that millions of people view those about whom we care the most — the poor, sick, imprisoned, immigrants – as contemptible, expendable, less than human.

However, despair is a luxury that we cannot afford. The rain still falls while there are homeless on our streets and in our doorways. Our efforts are so small, but we will stand up and continue them. We will imagine into existence another world. We will continue to welcome the stranger, whoever that person is. We will continue to feed, clothe, and shelter the poor, and we will increase our efforts. We will continue to gather, and pray, and remind ourselves that whatever an executive, or a legislature says, we will love our neighbor as ourselves. We will protect those who others will not.  We will remember the words of Dorothy Day: “People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must law one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words, and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

For the past twenty years the light of your faithful support has emboldened us to continue feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and comforting the afflicted.  We thank you for your past generous support of our work with those in need and hope you will continue helping us help others.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Kate Chatfield

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House