Mother Brown’s Dining Room is a Bayview-Hunters Point institution. For the past decade, the small soup kitchen has served breakfast and dinner to the neighborhood’s hungry. The organization that operates Mother Brown’s also allows homeless people to sit overnight in plastic chairs in a room on the building’s second floor. Now, the city wants to open a 100-bed homeless shelter to an adjacent warehouse. But the plan has drawn opposition from neighbors and local merchants. About 2,000 neighborhood residents have signed a petition, arguing that the shelter would add to the gritty neighborhood’s problems.
Calvin Henderson was nodding off during breakfast service on a recent weekday morning after another poor night’s sleep in the chairs upstairs. Like other homeless people in the area, he stays at Mother Brown’s because there are few alternatives. “It swells your feet up,” he said of sleeping upright. “I’ve been up all night.”
“We really don’t have a homeless shelter out here,” said Marvin Robinson, owner of the Dollar Store and More on Third Street. Robinson said that neighbors are concerned that the shelter would attract homeless from outside the neighborhood, and that it would result in more loitering and noise late at night. “I see the issue of being a property owner,” Robinson said. “But some of the homeless are stakeholders — they grew up in this neighborhood.”
Larry Williams has lived in the Bayview since in the 1960s and he currently lives in an RV, which is parked just down the block from Mother Brown’s. “I grew up and went to school with all these people. So, I know all these neighbors around here. And all the newer neighbors around here, they came up in here acting like they’re so community-minded, trying to push us out because they don’t want no shelters. But if you ain’t never been homeless, you ain’t got no business even speakin on this.”
Shane Mayer moved to the Bayview about three years ago, and he lives a couple blocks away from Mother Brown’s. He co-chairs Bayview Residents Improving Their Environment, an organization that promotes neighborhood rejuvenation efforts. Mayer thinks the Bayview is an up-and-coming neighborhood, but he’s worried that adding beds to Mother Brown’s would attract more homeless people. “My position is that we should have supportive housing for them — not an emergency shelter.”
Evaristo Morales Crúz, from Veracruz, Mexico, works for a roofing company in Bayview-Hunters Point and eats at Mother Brown’s Dining Room two or three times per week. “The food makes me strong,” he said. “No food, no power.” Crúz says he has slept in the chairs a few times, when it was too late to go to a shelter. “It’s better than the street.”