Bo Candelario Receives Spirit of Saint Francis Award

Each year, St. Francis House recognizes the outstanding work of one staff member with the Tim Bulla Spirit of St. Francis award. The award was created in 2018 in honor of 25 years of service by former St. Francis House Associate Director of Clinical Services, Tim Bulla. Employees nominate a colleague who has, “consistently treated others with respect and dignity, demonstrated intentional acts of compassion, serves with humility and has an unwavering commitment to social justice.”

This year, we are recognizing the incredible work of our Community Engagement and Safety (C.E.S.) supervisor, Bo Candelario. Bo leads a hard-working and compassionate team who serve as the first point of contact for many of our guests. He puts a tremendous amount of pride and heart into his work, doing everything he can to make sure our guests are cared for and treated with respect. Congratulations to Bo Candelario, for receiving the well-deserved 2022 Tim Bulla Spirit of St. Francis Award!

How long have you worked with St. Francis House?

I have been a proud member of St. Francis House since 2005. I started with an entry level position as a security staff member; after a few years, I became a team leader, and with hard work and dedication I was later promoted to Community, Engagement and Safety (C.E.S.) Supervisor, which is my current title. All through my career, I have felt supported by St. Francis House, personally and professionally.

Can you describe your work?

My work is the safety of our guests and staff, but there are many ways to describe it. No day is the same!

I open St. Francis House at 6:30 every day –at 5:00 if the weather is inclement. Before entering the building, I say hello to the guests that are already waiting in line for me and the rest of the staff.

I start the process of admitting the guests into the building and at the same time, I start my interactions with the guests: I say hello, I distribute masks, I hear news, I answer questions.

Once that process is rolling, I take care of the daily schedule, organizing the C.E.S. staff in the posts that they will occupy during the day.

I supervise and secure the different activities of our guests while in the shelter -early morning coffee, breakfast, showers, mailroom, lunch, clothing, clinic, and any other activities that require crowd control. Together with my manager and my team, we intervene when there is a difficult situation between guests, or between guests and staff. My goal is always to de-escalate the situation. This part of my job is risky because our population is often on edge due to homelessness, use of substances, mental health issues, and many other challenges.

At the end of the day, I secure the building and its perimeter before closing, and make sure we are staffed for the evening and overnight shifts.

How does it feel to be awarded the Tim Bulla Spirit of St. Francis Award?

It feels like a completed mission, as justice done to my efforts and my merit, but also as a recognition to my C.E.S. team, because I couldn’t have achieved what I have without them.

What does this award mean to you?

The award means happiness and satisfaction to me. It’s the proof that I surpassed the expectations that St. Francis House has for their employees.

The award also means the pride and the challenge of filling Tim Bulla’s shoes. Tim was an example for all of us, and it is an honor to receive the Tim Bulla Spirit of St. Francis Award.

What are some things that motivate you to go above and beyond in your work?

My family and our guests at SFH are.

I feel that the award was won by my kids, because they motivated me to improve every day by comparing my work life and earnings to their friends’ parents who made more.

Our guests motivate me by constantly reminding me to put myself in their shoes, to empathize, to do for them what I couldn’t do for some of my own in the past.

Do you have a story about a time you were able to help someone in an unexpected way, or in a way that meant a lot?

One day I was called for an emergency outside the building, in front of the Chinatown public library. When I got there to assess the scene, I saw the familiar face of one of our guests. He was lying on the sidewalk unresponsive. Henry and I checked his vitals, but he wasn’t responding. We observed the symptoms of an overdose, and started CPR and chest compression, and administered Narcan. After five minutes, we administered a second Narcan. An ambulance had been called, and when it arrived paramedics took over. They put him on stretchers and took him away still unresponsive. I was troubled not knowing how he was. After a couple days, I tried to get info on him, and learned that he was still in the hospital.

Time passed, and I went about my life, but very often caught myself thinking about him, and wondering if he was alive. A couple months later, he unexpectedly came through the door… I was so excited to see him alive! He asked me “Are you Bo?” I said “yes.” “Thank you for saving my life. I’ve heard your name, but I didn’t even remember your face. Without your help I would have died a long time ago.”

He was still recuperating after his hospital stay and asked me some questions about what happened to him; I answered to the best of my knowledge. That moment, when I saw him walking through St. Francis House’s door, was one of the happiest moments of my life. I took a picture of both of us!

What do you see as the most important aspect of what you do?

Since we are front line guest facing staff, I do my best to immediately connect with guests, meet them where they are at the moment, and put them in the right direction toward the services they need.

It’s very important to me to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the guests, a shelter from the weather and the streets. It makes me happy to give our guests the opportunity to have choices, to be scanned and recognized when entering the building, to either have breakfast or take a shower, or to get clothes, watch the news, get the mail, or to talk to a case manager or see a housing specialist, or to get ready to find a job, or to find a space to remain sober among peers, or to be met in the street by our outreach team if they are still struggling to come into the building.

What kind of impact do you hope to have for the guests and residents at St. Francis House, and beyond? 

I hope to win the trust of the guests, make them feel welcomed, listened to, included, and respected while they are at St. Francis House.