Martins: A Special Place

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Martin de Porres, House of Hospitality, a venerable soup kitchen, is all about love. Each person who comes to Martin’s is treated like a guest, made to feel at home, safe and as a consequence loved. It is a special place where the interaction between the volunteers and guests, many who have been helping out since the beginning in 1971, create an important sense of community. Word about Martin’s even spread to Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama who have both been visitors in past years.

Martin’s was named after St. Martin de Porres, the Peruvian patron saint of social justice. The word “saint” has been removed however to remind people Martin’s though spiritual, is not a religious place. There is no mandatory prayer for food. Instead as stated on their website, it is built on the philosophy called “gentle personalism: all persons have dignity; all persons have the right to be respected. Each person who comes to Martin’s is a guest and is to be treated as such. Eating is a right, not a privilege, and that feeding the hungry is a matter of justice, not of charity.” Martin de Porres is not a corporation and there is no salaried staff. Volunteers and donations keep the place going.

Unassuming from the outside, you might miss seeing it if you drive by. Inside it is spacious, warm and welcoming with a flowered patio and skylights. Food is served from a bright white kitchen. It is affectionately called a free restaurant. There is even take out. As a volunteer said, there is often a lot of fun and laughter. Breakfast and lunch are served to 200-400 people a day. Many meals consist of a different hearty soup with salad and bread. Thursday is a favorite to many when Turkey Barley Soup is offered. On Sunday’s there might be shepherd’s pie or variations on rice and beans. At Christmas there is a special meal with waiters and volunteer music. Martin’s also offers a medical van on Thursdays and showers twice a week.

Food Runners is doing the good work of supplementing the needed ingredients for these many meals. When you are a food runner, you pull up close, ring a bell and an eager kitchen volunteer welcomes in the food.

In this seemingly turbulent political environment, the way Martin de Porres treats the homeless with respect and kindness, reminds us how to be in the world. It is one of the many important places in San Francisco that Food Runners serves.

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