St. Francis House

39 Boylston Street
Boston MA 02116

Phone: (617) 542-4211


St. Francis House began in 1984 as a simple bread line, yet quickly grew into a multi-service day shelter. Today, it is the largest such organization in New England, serving more than 800 men and women, every day of the year.

From providing food and daytime shelter to showers, access to medical care, clean, seasonally appropriate clothing, and mail and ID services, St. Francis House is unique in its ability to meet all of its guests’ needs under one roof.

In addition to these basic needs services, rehabilitative services are offered including mental health and substance abuse counseling, art therapy, and more. St. Francis House also offers legal aid, job-skills training, and transitional and permanent housing.

St. Francis House has been recognized as a National Model Program by:

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Committee on Hunger and Homelessness
  • The Social Security Administration
  • The U.S. House of Representatives Speaker’s Task Force on Homelessness


Breakfast is served from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily, and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 365 days a year.  Menus feature lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Meals are free, no questions asked. Emergency sandwiches are also provided after 2:45 p.m., for those who are hungry or want something to eat that night.

Daytime Shelter

St. Francis House provides a safe, clean and positive environment for guests to enjoy during the day rather than spending the day on the street.  (Nighttime shelters require their guests to leave every morning so the facility can clean and prepare for the next night.)  St. Francis House guests can escape the elements, enjoy the company of friends, and watch the local news or a movie chosen by one of our discussion groups.

There is an Atrium on the first floor and a Day Center on the second floor. The Day Center features a library, telephones, and computers with Internet access, vital tools for keeping in touch with loved ones and job-hunting. The Day Center classroom is used for a variety of activities and classes, including an employment club, a weekly music group, and a Short Film Coffeehouse.

For guests who are new to St. Francis House, the Hospitality Desk in the Day Center should be their first stop. There, guests can get a St. Francis House ID, which will help them access  services, including case management or mental health counseling.


Fresh Threads Clothing Program

St. Francis House is the largest distributor of clothing to the poor and homeless in Greater Boston.  Every month, they distribute more than 750 changes of clothing through their Fresh Threads program. Fresh Threads provides guests with everyday attire, brand-new undergarments, shoes and other essentials, including winter gear that can make a life-or-death difference to those who have to spend the night outside. Guests’ needs for special clothing may also be met, such as sturdy boots for a construction job, a suit for a parent’s funeral, or business attire for an interview or new job.  The Studio Shine boutique distributes professional clothing for students and alumni of the Moving Ahead Program.

Showers and toiletries

People experiencing homelessness lack many of the basics that others take for granted, such as a daily shower.   St. Francis House provides nearly 10,000 showers a year to its guests, along with toiletries, including shaving cream, razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Mail and ID Services

Receiving mail or conducting business transactions is nearly impossible without a permanent address or valid form of identification. But the St. Francis House mailroom, convenient and easily accessible, is a secure place for family, potential employers, and others to direct letters to guests who use 39 Boylston Street as their home address.  St. Francis House ID cards are also provided, which can help guests acquire a driver’s license or open a bank account.

Medical and Psychiatric Care

Poverty and life on the streets lead to a unique set of medical concerns.  St. Francis House physicians, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses have the experience and expertise to treat them.   Many students from  local colleges, universities, and nursing schools work in the St. Francis House program for their community-health clinical experience.

Operated onsite by Boston Health Care for the Homeless, our Marie L. Arky Medical Clinic provides approximately 13,000 appointments per year, making it one of the busiest health care sites in the city for homeless adults. It offers primary care, episodic care, preventive health services, and foot care, which is a chronic yet often-overlooked need.  HIV testing and counseling are available once a week.

St. Francis House also provides psychiatric care, thanks to two local psychiatrists who, along with interns and residents from several local hospitals, help us meet this critical need.