Over one hundred years after its founding, Mary Elizabeth Inn continues its mission of providing housing and services for women in need from its historic property at 1040 Bush Street. The three-story, painted-brick Tudor-Revival building the organization calls home was originally constructed in 1913 by the organization’s founder Lizzie Glide, who used her personal resources to build Mary Elizabeth Inn as safe and affordable housing for young working women in San Francisco.
At the time of the Inn’s founding in the early part of the 20th century, San Francisco was a rough and dangerous place for women. As the story goes, one day Mrs. Glide asked a group of women on the street what she could do to help others if money were no object. The women replied that they would build a safe home for working women. And that is what Mrs. Glide did: Mary Elizabeth Inn was her first gift to the city, followed by the now important legacy institution Glide Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in 1929.
The Inn’s 92-unit building is a design of trailblazing architect Julia Morgan, appropriate given the Inn’s focus on women. In the 1930s, Mrs. Glide donated the building to the National Office of the United Methodist Women (UMW), and established the public nonprofit organization, Mary Elizabeth Inn (MEI), which continues to steward the building and its programs today. Early in 2021, the UMW donated the title to The Inn to MEI, which itself is celebrating over 90 years of service.
MEI is looking ahead to the next 90 years as caretakers of their historic building and its important service mission. It has long partnered with the Department on the Status of Women (DOSW) and the Human Services Agency (HSA) of the City and County of San Francisco to ensure housing at affordable rates, and with community-based organizations such as La Casa de La Madres and the San Francisco Food Bank to offer vital supportive services and food programs to residents. Comprehensive, onsite case management service are available as needed to assist women in getting back on their feet, some of which have been modified due to Covid-19. Other services include free meals, weekly food giveaways, free use of computers and peripherals, as well as free internet access. Clients are single adult, unaccompanied women who are formerly homeless and low income; many are survivors of domestic violence. The average length of stay for a majority of the residents is two to three years before moving on to more independent housing or reuniting with family. For many others, housing obtained at Mary Elizabeth Inn remains their only affordable housing option.
MEI recently submitted an application to join the San Francisco Legacy Business Registry, which recognizes businesses that have operated in San Francisco for 30 years or longer and have contributed to San Francisco’s history and identity.
To learn more about MEI’s mission and to support their work, visit https://meinn.org/.