"Even if we couldn't save it, we thought it was still worth a try because any money that would come would go back to them." The women drafted a letter asking for help, which they'd hoped management would distribute to the press and public.
The foundation, Hernandez said, had a "thanks, but no thanks" response.
Hardin told us that St. Anthony's wasn't facing a financial crisis, so "we're not going to get up and cry wolf. We want to go back to some of the basics. We're turning people away from the clinic," he pointed out.
He agreed that shelter was a basic service, but said, "We can't do it all."
The foundation wouldn't detail its intentions for the building once it's vacated Aug. 31, beyond affirming that it would be rented. "That's going to be an income generator," said foundation spokesperson Francis Aviani. "We are hoping to get a social service agency to use the space in the way it's designed for, helping folks."
Multiple St. Anthony employees said they were told the facility would be used for medical respite beds set aside for people who aren't in critical condition, but are too ill or fragile to mingle with the general population and have nowhere else to go and a St. Anthony board member confirmed that was the only plan presented to the board.
Marc Trotz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health's Housing and Urban Health division, which oversees its $2.5 million, 60-bed medical respite program currently housed in two facilities, told us the city is looking for a new respite site. He confirmed that the Marian building is a facility the agency has seriously considered. "We're not looking to push one program out in favor of another or anything like that." But, he said, "It's a potential site that would work well."
While St. Anthony is cutting $3 million in programs, foundation staffers have been working for several years on a $22 million capital campaign for a new administrative building at 150 Golden Gate Ave. The building will replace a facility at 121 Golden Gate, where offices, the clinic, an employment center, and a dining room are currently housed. The popular dining room which serves 2,600 meals a day will ultimately move back to 121 Golden Gate after the building is razed and rebuilt to meet modern earthquake safety standards. The project is part of another $20 million campaign that includes a partnership with Mercy Housing to build affordable rentals on the upper floors.
St. Anthony staffers say the types of donors who will contribute to a new building are very different from those who will fund ongoing programs.
Meanwhile, food costs in the dining room have increased 18 percent in the last three months, and St. Anthony staffers expect another 25 percent increase during the coming quarter. At the same time, other free food programs in the city have closed, which means St. Anthony is seeing new faces in the dining room.
Aviani confirmed that donations have increased 8 percent to 10 percent, but the group receives very few "unrestricted" funds. Most of the money is earmarked for the dining room. In a way, she said, "that's the community deciding what they want."
A third of the organization's $19.7 million budget comes from bequests a form of donation that has waxed and waned in recent years. According to Aviani, the foundation has yet to receive a single bequest this year.
The group has increased grants and deployed new fundraising methods, but she said that "The amount of grants out there for shelters and women's programs are few and far between." She acknowledged that shelters are needed, and said St. Anthony has been "pretty outspoken about that."
The foundation has kept a tight lid on talk about the closures.