April 7, 1982 when a small group of Catholic Worker volunteers distributed 65 egg salad sandwiches from the trunk of their car on Soledad Street in Salinas, an area known for abandoned buildings and abandoned lives.
In fact, April of 2021 marked 39 years of service for that same group that became the Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra. Over time, we created Dorothy’s Place in Chinatown, created a free health clinic for the poor, succeeded in creating a walk-in emergency shelter for street women in Salinas, and created a successful community of formerly broken and abandoned lives now living together in mutual support in the House of Peace. October 2016 saw the opening of a pilot health facility, the Chinatown Health Services Center, where we encourage numerous medical, mental health and social program providers to join us in service to the poor and homeless.
Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra, a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation, was named intentionally to honor St. Francis of Assisi, who had a special affinity with the poor, and Father Junípero Serra, the Franciscan friar-missionary that pioneered the Central Coast region of California. We’re proud of who we are and what we do. And though we’ve been in existence for more than 39 years, we have no problem answering the following frequently asked questions:
Why are we here?
We exist to serve our marginalized neighbors throughout the Monterey County area, and have a special affinity with people that have been long-time homeless. We compassionately offer hospitality, safety, guidance toward a life of greater health and happiness, and a bridge to services they might feel are unavailable to them elsewhere. Our goal is to compassionately assist everyone with a desire for a healthy and sustainable life into permanent housing.
Why are the Dorothy’s Place programs needed?
The people we serve need friends who understand that they have been traumatized. They also need health and housing experts that can inspire and motivate, yet move at the pace they feel safe with. Everyone has a human right to safety, dignity, and purpose.
Why should the community care?
The way many people in our neighborhood live affects everyone in the community ethically, morally and financially. We cannot be successful as a community until life for everyone is just and healthy.
Are we Catholic or associated with the Catholic Church?
Only in the way that we are associated with many people of many faiths and traditions. The Catholic Worker community that marked our beginning quickly became a multi-faith community and we now honor every contribution of spirit as a gift that can lift us and the people we serve out of poverty and desperation. The spirit of compassion that drives us and our partners inspires us to be more professional, more practical and more resourceful, all the time listening to our homeless neighbors for cues on how to serve them better.