Otherwise, bus tokens are sometimes available if you ask for one especially if you're staying at Providence shelter in the Bayview-Hunters Point District.
They'll ask if you have a shelter preference they're all a little different and come with good and bad recommendations depending on whom you talk to. By all accounts, Hospitality House is one of the best it's small, clean, and well run. But it's for men only, as are the Dolores Street Community Services shelters (1050 S. Van Ness and 1200 Florida), which primarily cater to Spanish-speaking clients.
Women can try Oshun (211 13th St.) and A Woman's Place (1049 Howard) if they want a men-free space. If kids are in tow, Compass Family Services will set you up with shelter and put you on a waiting list for housing. (A recent crush of families means a waiting list for shelters also exists.) People between 18 and 24 can go to Lark Inn (869 Ellis). The Asian Woman's Shelter specializes in services for Asian-speaking women and domestic violence victims (call the crisis line 877-751-0880). (Amanda Witherell)
Nothing fancy about these places but the food is good, and the price is right, and they're perfect for depression dining.
Betty's Cafeteria Probably the easiest place in town to eat for under five bucks, breakfast or lunch, American or Chinese. 167 11th St., SF. (415) 431-2525
Susie's Café You can get four pancakes or a bacon burger for under $5 at this truly grungy and divine dive, right next to Ed's Auto and you get the sense the grease intermingles. , 603 Seventh St., SF (415) 431-2177
Lawrence Bakery Café Burger and fries, $3.75, and a slice of pie for a buck. 2290 Mission., SF. (415) 864-3119
Wo's Restaurant Plenty of under-$5 Cantonese and Vietnamese dishes, and, though the place itself is cold and unatmospheric, the food is actually great. 4005 Judah, SF. (415) 681-2433
Glenn's Hot Dogs A cozy, friendly, cheap, delicious hole-in-the-wall and probably my favorite counter to sit at in the whole Bay Area. 3506 MacArthur Blvd., Oakl. (510) 530-5175 (L.E. Leone)
When it comes to free drinks I'm a liar, a whore, and a cheat, duh.
I'm a liar because of course I find your designer replica stink-cloud irresistible and your popped collar oh so intriguing and no, you sexy lug, I've never tried one of those delicious-looking orange-juice-and-vodka concoctions you're holding. Perhaps you could order me one so I could try it out while we spend some time?
I'm a whore because I'll still do you anyway after the fifth round, natch. That's why they call me the liquor quicker picker-upper.
And I'm a cheat because here I am supposed to give you the scoop on where to score some highball on the lowdown, when in fact there's a couple of awesome Web sites just aching to help you slurp down the freebies. Research gives me wrinkles, darling. So before I get into some of my fave inexpensive inebriation stations, take a designated-driver test drive of www.funcheapsf.com and www.sf.myopenbar.com.
FuncheapSF's run by the loquacious Johnny Funcheap, and has the dirty deets on a fab array of free and cheap city events with gallery openings, wine and spirits tastings, and excellent shindigs for the nightlife-inclined included. MyOpenBar.com is a national operation that's geared toward the hard stuff, and its local branch offers way too much clarity about happy hours, concerts, drink specials, and service nights.