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Holiday Events Ramp Up, Providing Access to Meals, Services and Family Activities

San Francisco Public Press
 — Dec 13 2016 - 3:52pm

On Thanksgiving Day, Von, who is homeless and would only give his “street name,” was getting his hair cut for free in a makeshift salon near Taylor and Market streets in the Tenderloin.

Turkey dinners were being served in the open air on Jones Street, a block away, and when Von’s cut was finished he headed that way, his cane in one hand and his sleeping bag in the other.

Volunteers at the event, put on by San Francisco City Impact, served about 700 complimentary sit-down meals, and delivered 3,000 meals to low-income residents nearby. They also provided other services like free haircuts, manicures, access to donated clothing and medical attention.

It was one of many holiday events hosted by nonprofit organizations and churches who provide food and social services to anyone who needs them. Many other parties, buffets and toy giveaways are still to come, in the lead up to 2017. We’ve mapped those events below:

(Find our list of events at the end of this article. Please email us if you think we missed any.)

Holiday events give San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents additional access to services while granting volunteers insight into the lives of people experiencing poverty and homelessness.

That might help humanize the city’s homeless population — almost 6,800 people, according to a city estimate in 2015. That means almost 1 percent of San Francisco’s residents are homeless, which is similar to other major cities with large homeless populations like New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego and Las Vegas.

However, San Francisco’s homeless population might actually be as high as 10,000, based on Department of Public Health data reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

At City Impact’s Thanksgiving Day event, people filed steadily through the medical tents in pursuit of the free consultations awaiting them inside, from health professionals who stood ready to check their eyes, teeth, skin and more. Many people showed up to get fitted for glasses, while others sought treatment for sore feet and infected wounds.

Nurse Kate Hepting (right) was one of about 900 people who volunteered that day; her job was to examine people, treat their wounds and advise them on where to go for additional medical care if necessary.

About 65 people come to the organization every week to obtain these medical services, said Michael Hamada, City Impact’s assistant development director. People typically need to be treated for wounds, colds and the flu, and are tested for high blood pressure and diabetes.

Hepting said what people need most is simply a caring relationship, which they often find with volunteers. “Many of the people living here are in single-room occupancy hotels or apartments, and are very isolated, often without friends or family nearby,” she said.

City Impact will also host a Christmas Day event, where staff expect to serve 300 dinners onsite, deliver another 5,000 meals to nearby homes and give out toys to 300 children. Hot meals, haircuts and medical care will also be available, as they were on Thanksgiving.

City Impact is still accepting volunteers for its Christmas Day event. Volunteer tickets can be purchased here for $25, and the money helps pay for putting on the events.

GLIDE Memorial Church will also host a series of events to give children toys and provide food, including a prime rib luncheon on Christmas Eve, meals throughout the morning on Christmas Day and on Dec. 26, and a Kwanzaa celebration on Dec. 30. Volunteers can sign up here.


Below is a list of the many other holiday events hosted by San Francisco organizations. They are open to all, unless marked otherwise.

Leading up to Christmas

Dec. 16 — Holiday lunch

  • When: 11 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: 953 De Haro St., at Southern Heights Ave.
  • Event by: Potrero Hill Neighborhood House

Dec. 16 — Grocery bag giveaway

  • When: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Arrive early, there will be a line.
  • Where: 330 Ellis St., at Taylor Street.
  • Event by: Glide Memorial

Dec. 18 — Deadline to apply for toy giveaway

  • IMPORTANT: Apply to receive a toy by going to any San Francisco fire station or visiting the department’s website, where additional details can be found. Toys are for children age 12 or younger. To participate, both the child and legal guardian must prove they are residents of San Francisco. Each family can submit only one application for a toy.
  • Where: Pick up toys by appointment only, at 2225 Jerrold Ave.
  • Event by: San Francisco Fire Department

Dec. 18 — Deadline to apply for toy giveaway

  • IMPORTANT: Families are eligible only if they have children ages 13 or younger.
  • When: Families can register for the giveaway by calling (415) 826-8080. Toys will be handed out on Dec. 22.
  • Where: 953 De Haro St., at Southern Heights Avenue
  • Event by: Potrero Hill Neighborhood House

Dec. 19 — Toy giveaway for kids

  • IMPORTANT: Children can participate in the toy giveaway if they are age 12 or younger. Food and toys are limited, and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • When: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Where: 330 Ellis St., at Taylor Street
  • Event by: Glide Memorial

Dec. 22 — Holiday party for kids

  • IMPORTANT: All children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • When: Noon to 2:00 p.m.
  • Additional details: Children can have photos taken with Santa, receive a toy and have their faces painted. Lunch will be served.
  • Where: Southeast Center at City College of SF, at 1800 Oakdale Ave. Go to the Alex Pitcher Community Room.
  • Event by: United Council of San Francisco

On Christmas Eve

Lunch with live entertainment

  • When: Doors open at 10:30 a.m., and meals are served noon to 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: 225 Potrero Ave.
  • Event by: Martin de Porres House of Hospitality

Christmas Eve lunch

  • IMPORTANT: Children can participate in the toy giveaway if they are age 12 and younger. Food and toys are limited, and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Where: 330 Ellis St., at Taylor Street
  • Event by: Glide Memorial

On Christmas Day

Meals served to homeless and people in need

  • When: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Where: On the sidewalk at the corner of Cesar Chavez Street and Potrero Avenue, on the curb outside the baseball park. Meals served every Sunday at 3:30.
  • Event by: Missionaries of Charity Queen of Peace Shelter

Lunch on Christmas Day

  • When: Two different times (see below)
  • - 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. for families with children and seniors age 60+.
  • - 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for anyone.
  • Where: 121 Golden Gate Ave.
  • Event by: St. Anthony Foundation

Holiday meal

  • IMPORTANT: Food is limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Where: 1187 Franklin St.
  • Event by: First Unitarian Universal Church

Christmas dinner, party, and many services (see “Additional details”)

  • Additional details: Buffet style sit-down Christmas dinner on Jones Street. Attendees will have access to free, limited medical care and advice, and will be able to get haircuts, manicures and makeup done at a salon and beauty area. There will also be a clothing and grocery giveaway.
  • When: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Where: 240 Jones St.
  • Event by: San Francisco City Impact