St. Anthony Foundation buys Oasis Motel in collaborative partnership to shelter homeless families

By Christina Gray

The St. Anthony Foundation has expanded its services to vulnerable families by buying the shuttered Oasis Inn in San Francisco’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood. The Oasis will continue to serve as a permanent emergency family shelter with expanded services.

The 59-unit motel began serving as an emergency family shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic. St. Anthony Foundation has acquired the facility in a partnership triad with the City of San Francisco and a private donor to keep homeless families off the streets.

Nils Behnke, CEO of St. Anthony Foundation, said the move is a “demonstration of what is possible” in a public-private partnership.

“This is a game-changer for our community’s most vulnerable families and St. Anthony’s,” said Behnke. “We look forward to sustaining the Oasis Inn as a shelter for more than 300 women and children annually, for years to come.”

A gift from the Kaplan Family Trust was the cornerstone initiating this project, according to St. Anthony’s Director of Communications, Sally Haims. Matching funds from the St. Anthony Foundation enabled the acquisition of the Oasis Inn. The shelter will continue to be run by the Providence Foundation of San Francisco in contract with the City of San Francisco. St. Anthony’s will offer supplemental services, including case management, medical care and care coordination.

St. Anthony’s intends for the Oasis to continue to serve as a shelter for families, particularly women and their children, including survivors of domestic violence (for short-term or emergency needs). 

“For years, we’ve envisioned offering a place of healing, a sanctuary for women and their children to create a fresh start and exit homelessness and poverty permanently,” according to Juliana Terheyden, director of strategic projects at St. Anthony’s. “The biggest obstacle was always the question of ‘where’. The Oasis Inn will be where women can develop stable lives and position themselves to hold the keys to build brighter futures.”

St. Anthony’s Foundation began with the vision of Franciscan Friar Father Alfred Boeddeker, who had a vision of serving vulnerable populations in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. In 1950, he opened the doors of St. Anthony’s with a free dining room that today feeds more than 1,000 guests per day.

St. Anthony’s other services include a free clothing program, a resource center, a medical clinic, the Tenderloin Technology Lab, and a transitional employment/workforce development program. St. Clare’s Care (formerly Gubbio Project) located inside neighboring St. Boniface Church offers rest and respite during designated hours, a hygiene hub, medical clinic, and an addiction recovery program.

Patricia Doyle, executive director of the Providence Foundation, which offers support services to Bayview/Hunters Point families, said the Foundation is dedicated to providing safe places and shelter to those “deemed castaways.”

“By joining forces with St. Anthony’s Foundation, we can significantly impact many lives in the Bay Area,” she said. “The power of like-minded, values-driven organizations and love will transform the lives of those who have been forgotten.”

San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston praised the possibilities of collaboration between public and private sectors. The city worked with Providence Foundation during the pandemic to pilot the Oasis Inn as an emergency shelter.

 “When we learned last year that the property was up for sale, we worked with all stakeholders to find a path to preserve the Oasis Inn as a permanent family shelter. Now, St. Anthony’s has stepped up in an incredible way to make this possible by acquiring the property. As a result, hundreds, if not thousands, of lives will be forever changed.”

Christina Gray is the lead writer for Catholic San Francisco magazine.