Making Strides: San Francisco Homeless Families Venture on a New Journey

It’s been about six weeks since a young boy named Rudy was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle. In the photo Rudy was getting ready for school – standing outside a tent in a parking lot where his family was camped. Happily, much has changed in the past few weeks for Rudy and for dozens of other formerly homeless families.

Inspired by Rudy’s plight and the reports of skyrocketing number of homeless families in our community, the Salesforce.com Foundation was propelled forward by Lynne and Marc Benioff’s generosity and a partnership with the Mayor’s office. We selected two strong nonprofits as our partners, Catholic Charities CYO and Hamilton Family Center. Here’s a summary of all that has been accomplished and where we still need the help of the community.

Star Community Home

Catholic Charities CYO is already providing a safe and supportive home for 10 women and their children and infants at their new Star Community Home located at the former convent at Star of the Sea Parish on Geary Street. In another week, the Home will be filled to capacity. Jeff Bialik, executive director of Catholic Charities, described the journey this way, “This has been a real whirlwind and some of the most exciting work our agency has ever been involved with.”   

Star 1
More than 85% of homeless families across the nation are headed by single mothers. The joint effort between the Salesforce.com Foundation and Catholic Charities CYO is helping San Francisco families stabilize their living situation by providing for basic needs, parenting education, housing placement assistance, children’s activity programs, and intensive case management services.

The transformation of an empty convent to a warm and welcoming home was extraordinary. On Dec.27 & 28 over 75 volunteers from salesforce.com helped clean, organize and assemble over 130 pieces of IKEA furniture alongside construction crews from general contractors Hathaway Dinwiddie who were busy child-proofing, addressing plumbing issues, laying carpet, and installing security alarms and fire safety systems in the kitchen. The tremendous teamwork from Catholic Charities, salesforce.com, Dinwiddie Hathaway, and the Mayor’s office, as well as the Fire and Health Departments allowed the project to move to completion at an unprecedented pace.  Mothers and children at Star Community Home now have a comfortable, safe and supportive environment as well as a path to a stable future, permanent housing, and ongoing self-sufficiency.

We’re raising additional funds to continue to support these families and to provide the basic necessities required to stabilize their lives. Over $50,000 has been raised to date, but we need $70,000 more to see these families through the next 18 months. If you can give, your support would buy additional furnishings and essential supplies.  Donations can be made to www.cccyo.org/starcommunity, 100% of donations will go to the Star Community Home.

Hamilton Family Center

Hamilton Family Center is working to find private housing for dozens of families through their First Avenues program. First Avenues: Housing Solutions for Families is a nationally recognized housing program that serves homeless families and families most at risk of becoming homeless. First Avenues’ primary focus is to return families to independent living and to assist families and individuals to maintain their housing. The First Avenues staff met with and enrolled 33 families in the program quickly once the Benioff’s gift was made. Because of Hamilton’s strong relationships with landlords and their skilled professional staff, seven families were placed by Dec. 31, 2011, only 1 week since the funding was announced and four more since then. In all, 20 families are in in new homes as a result of Hamilton’s efforts and the Benioff’s grant for rent subsidies and more are being helped every day.

As they move in to their new homes, families served by First Avenues receive “Welcome Home Baskets” contributed by salesforce.com employees.  To learn more about the great work of Hamilton Family Center please visit:   http://hamiltonfamilycenter.org/what-we-do/first-avenues/