Controversy Du Jour: Feeding People

Mission Soup Kitchen Approved Despite Neighbors' Complaints About the Poors

Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen’s current Tenderloin location. [Photo: Google Street View]

The latest controversy tearing apart the Mission District’s gilded community has come to a close as a pair of nuns have been given the green light to move their soup kitchen from the Tenderloin to the Mission. Today, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of the relocation despite some neighbors’ fears that feeding the needy would cast a “long, dark shadow” over the neighborhood.

The vote concludes a nearly year-long battle for the nuns behind the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth Soup Kitchen. Last February, the soup kitchen found itself functionally evicted from its Tenderloin home after the nuns’ landlord more than doubled their rent. Self-help guru Tony Robbins then stepped in, buying the nuns their own space steps away from the 16th Street BART station.

But the cash of a millionaire media star wasn’t enough to curtail the nuns’ problems. Within weeks of Robbins’ gift, a group of mostly local condo-owners came together to formally oppose the soup kitchen from moving to the Mission Street location. As Mission Local reported at the time, citing a real estate broker who worked with the nuns, “[Members of the HOA] are trying to clean up the Mission and don’t want the homeless to be there. More crime and more loitering devalues the property.”

Feeding people is contentious business in the Mission, unless it’s done within the confines of Valencia Street’s immaculate cafeterias. And those condo-owners found themselves believing that the neighborhood has become a so-called “containing zone” for the less-fortunate—a fact the relocated soup kitchen would only exasperate.

As one local put it, per Mission Local:

“Everyday it’s very frightening for people like me to get to work,” said one neighbor, adding that she has lived in the neighborhood for two years and is regularly harassed for “being white and having a decent purse.”

“The last thing I need is another 150 people to try and fight my way to down 16th to get to the BART,” the woman said, in reference to the soup kitchen’s clientele.

Fortunately for the decent purse-havers of the Mission, the French nuns of Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth haven’t soured on their new neighbors. As they told the Chronicle, “Some people have told us they like the idea of our new soup kitchen, and that we should all do more for poor people. But some people don’t feel like that. We pray for them all.”

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