Mother Brown's Dining Room

Feeding the hungry, working to end homelessness in the Bayview

Gwendolyn Westbrook, worked alongside the original Mother Brown, Barbara J. Brown, for a year before Brown’s death in 2005. Since then, Westbrook has turned Mother Brown’s into a place that serves more than just food.

There were so many people we were feeding. I think 1,400 people a day, all day, every day”

Gwendolyn Westbrook

It's like a house for people that don't have one. In addition to getting a hot meal, there's a resource room, showers, washing machines, a TV room, even something called a serenity room – a quiet space where people can read or study for classes. Because of zoning issues, Mother Brown's isn't allowed to have beds, but people can spend the night in chairs.

“The clients are also our family. So it's not just about the staff being family, we're all family,” says Naketa Woodson, the Interim Managing Director of Mother Brown’s

Azul Dahlstrom-Eckman

The encampment outside of Mother Brown’s houses people in tents.

On a normal day, they serve around 800 people breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But when the pandemic hit last March, those numbers went up significantly.

“There were so many people we were feeding. I think, like 1,400 people a day, all day, every day,” recalls Westbrook.

Westbrook saw how people in her community, especially seniors and those with disabilities, were going hungry. So she came up with a plan – bring the dining room to them. - excerpt from "How Mother Brown's took the Dining Room to the People", article by 

 Azul Dahlstrom-Eckman

Sonia Narang

 
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CEO Gwendolyn Westbrook

 

CEO Gwendolyn Westbrook

This unique mix of food and song is hitting all the right notes, and right on time for this simultaneous pandemic and recession. In these anxious days of isolation, the Curtis Family Cnotes and Mother Brown’s Dining Room are serving up this blend of nutrition, R&B, rock and gospel, classical and jazz songs, in an uplifting partnership called “Food for the Body, Food for the Soul.”

CEO Gwendolyn Westbrook says: “The needs here are very high in this community. We have youth homeless, adult homeless and people living in the streets.”

For years, Mother Brown’s has been providing shelter and home-cooked meals for homeless people in the community. Even before COVID-19 set in, hunger in San Francisco communities was increasingly worse. As Westbrook explained in 2018: “With the tents, the food, the drug addiction … it takes a whole village to change the situation we’re in now.”

- excerpt from published article in SF Bayview, "Serving up Food & Song for the People", written by Christopher Cook

 

Ways We Help

San Francisco/Bayview Community

Ending homelessness

Tucked between cargo ships on the Bay and mounds of dirt near the railyard, the RV Park is part of California's Project Room Key program, which aimed to open up 15,000 hotel rooms to the state's homeless population when the pandemic took hold in March. As part of the initiative, the city of San Francisco acquired 120 recreational vehicles and trailers at the end of April to house homeless in the city's Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhood, at a cost of $90,000 per unit. If there were ever a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic, Gwendolyn Westbrook, who is the CEO of United Council of Human Services in San Francisco and advocated for securing the site, tells me it's what's happening at Pier 94.
"Without the pandemic we never would have got our RV camp," Westbrook says. "People came here from sitting in chairs for the last 16 or 17 years to now being able to lay down and not have to worry; it's amazing to see everything that this pandemic has changed, the good and the bad."

Feeding the community

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads economic hardship and social isolation, this potent partnership is providing nourishment, entertainment and connection to residents in need. Mother Brown’s Dining Room – part of the United Council of Human Services – delivers 400 boxes of food each week to Bayview residents, including hot meals to seniors stuck in their homes during the pandemic. CEO Gwendolyn Westbrook says: “The needs here are very high in this community. We have youth homeless, adult homeless and people living in the streets.”
For years, Mother Brown’s has been providing shelter and home-cooked meals for homeless people in the community. Even before COVID-19 set in, hunger in San Francisco communities was increasingly worse. As Westbrook explained in 2018: “With the tents, the food, the drug addiction … it takes a whole village to change the situation we’re in now.”

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“With the tents, the food, the drug addiction … it takes a whole village to change the situation we’re in now.”

Gwendolyn Westbrook

 

Contact United Council of Human Services, Mother Brown's Dining Room

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