What is Martins and how are we structured?

Martins is a non-profit 501(c)(3) community that is run as a collective. All of Martin’s funding comes exclusively through private donations. All of our donors receive a personal thank you letter. We are committed to making as many personal connections with our supporters as possible.

A core group of volunteers who have made a full-time commitment to Martins meet on a weekly basis and make all the decisions concerning the day-to-day operations by consensus.

Each meal at Martins is run by one of these core members who is known as the crew chief.

Our Story

Martin’s, as it is affectionately known, is a free restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. Our mission is to serve in the spirit of compassion, understanding and love.

We are a community of people with diverse spiritual practices although our roots are in, and we continue to be inspired by, the Catholic Worker Movement. Begun by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933, the Catholic Worker philosophy and ideals are carried out by upwards of 200 houses worldwide in various works of mercy in the spirit of “gentle personalism.”

We believe that 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.

In an era of corporations, Martin’s is unique. It is not a business and does not function as such. All donations go to benefit those for whom the money is intended. It receives no Church or government funds. There are no salaried staff and almost no administrative costs. Martin’s operates on the principle that what must get done will get done, and strives to develop a sense of personal responsibility towards the work. Those with an administrator’s mindset may find Martin’s to be a perplexing enigma. Nevertheless, many who spend a day at the kitchen find themselves touched, even changed, and there are volunteers who have worked at Martin’s since it first opened in 1971.

At Martin’s, both guests and volunteers represent a cross-section of humanity. Almost every conceivable race, religion, age, sexual identity, economic and social background, political belief, and educational level are found here.

Martin’s is many things. For some it as a miracle. Others see it as a problem because the poor are not always pretty, and it is easier if they aren’t seen. Some see Martin’s as the one place where someone calls them by name. A sanctuary with a tranquil garden. A place that adds meaning and a sense of community to their lives or a fun place to eat or volunteer. A place to do that “something worthwhile” they always meant to do. A place where warm nourishing food is served, without embarrassment, without proselytization. A place where they can live out the Catholic Worker philosophy in which they so deeply believe. Some see Martin’s as a place that shows what idealism looks like in practice.

If you are wondering what Martin’s could mean to you, come and see. You will never be quite the same!

In 1970 Father Jim Hagen from St. Peter’s Parish asked several of his parishioners to open a soup kitchen in the Mission District. The soup kitchen, most commonly known as “Martin’s” is also known as Martin De Porres House of Hospitality, named after 18th century Catholic saint from Peru was born. The original Martin’s was located in an old bar on 22nd Street near Bryant. The old bar could only hold 49 people. When capacity was reached people would have to queue up outside. This led to complaints from some of the neighbors and ultimately resulted in the landlord not renewing the lease.

At this point it was felt that Martins would need to buy a place. Barbara Collier had the courage and vision to take the leap and buy the property at 225 Portrero. As the story goes Barbara went on the radio and said she was so sure they would raise the balance of the money necessary for the down payment by the date due that she would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge if they didn’t. Fortunately the money came.

No other person is more responsible for the existence of Martin’s as we know it today than Barbara Collier. Barbara believed with all her heart in the simplicity and spirituality of service. She lived out her faith daily as the inspirational leader of Martin de Porres House of Hospitality for well over 30 years. Barbara made sure that everyone, no matter how humble or exalted their circumstance, was treated with respect and dignity at the soup kitchen.

Boodie, as she was affectionately called by close family and friends, had a zest for life that was infectious. Her enormous laugh filled every room she was in. Barbara had a huge passion for the color purple, the ocean, the desert, dark chocolate, movies, colored pencils, Diet Pepsi, traveling, Hawaii and her many cherished girlfriends. Barbara was a very creative visual artist and her art was an important daily ritual for her. She delighted in simple things like trees and the birds in the backyard. Deeply conversant in metaphysics, Barbara recognized the divine spark in everything around her. Barbara was intensely curious about death. Her fascination with life’s inevitable final passage gave many people hope and reassurance in the darkest of times. She worked with the terminally ill and helped multitudes of people transition into the next phase with grace and compassion. You can see many of their names written on the “tree” in the garden.

Barbara reached her life long dream of dying and leapt into eternity while in her sleep on September 13, 2009.