In February 2021, a collaborative city and nonprofit team made up of: SFHOT, VA, Felton ICM and EMS6, worked together to house a vulnerable senior with schizophrenia who had been homeless in the Mission for 45 years. Bob* experienced homelessness when his first episode of schizophrenia began at the age of 30 years old. He lost everything: his job, family and stability. When Bob initially became homeless, he lived in his van for several years until he became ill and unable to maintain his vehicle. Through the journey of his return to stabilization, and outreach from SFHOT, Bob was in and out of hospital stays until the VA found Bob a SIP which could accommodate his ADL’s. After many attempts of housing offers, Bob successfully moved into the permanent supportive housing.
Tanya* a mother escaping domestic violence with two young children came to San Francisco seeking a better life. She and her children spent five months at the Hamilton Family Shelter. Overwhelmed and struggling, she reached out to her mother in Georgia, who in turn contacted Homeward Bound for help. In a matter of days, Homeward Bound was able to get Tanya and her children safely on a Greyhound bus home to Georgia. Tanya called her Homeward Bound case manager from every state until she was reunited with her grateful mother. Once a client is reunited with friends, family or loved ones, Homeward Bound follows-up with phone calls and outreach.
During the holiday season, the Homeward Bound Team was called by a local hospital to engage with a client named Joe. Joe was homeless in San Francisco and had been using emergency hospital services consistently for general weakness. Joe was extremely confused and soft spoken and it was challenging for the team to understand him. It was finally determined that Joe was from Texas and Joe gave the team permission to contact his family. San Francisco law enforcement reached out to Texas police to track down Joe’s son. Within a short timeframe Joe’s son called asking for details on Joe’s condition and about arrangements to get Joe home to Texas. Joe’s weak condition was of great concern to the Homeward Bound team and the consensus was that Joe would not be able to tolerate a three day bus ride home.
A phone call was made back to Joe’s son to see if he could come out earlier than planned. He agreed and booked a plane ticket immediately stating that he would arrive at SFO and stay the night. He would then rent a vehicle and drive back with Joe. Upon the Darrival of his son, Joe was very overwhelmed with emotion and was relieved that he was there. The Homeward Bound Team was able to assist the nurse in getting Joe ready for his trip home to Texas and walked Joe and his son to their car while wishing them a safe journey.
“Moments like these overpower so much of the heartache we see,” said Homeward Bound team member, Charlene Gandy. “We were determined to find a way to get Joe back to his family and it was powerful to witness this reunion.”
Barry*, a San Francisco native, recently moved into his new home after experiencing homelessness for over two years. After his divorce, Barry alternated between couch-surfing, staying in shelters, and living on the streets. He suffered a stroke, which resulted in him having significantly limited mobility and difficulty speaking. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Barry received a room at a Shelter-in-Place hotel operated by Episcopal Community Services. With the assistance of Adult Coordinated Entry, he secured permanent supportive housing, and he says he is delighted to “move forward and live my life” now that he has housing stability.
Kelly* was excited to pick new baby blue sheets for her first night at the City’s newly opened Lower Polk TAY (18-24) Navigation Center. She’s looking forward to taking advantage of the services offered through Third Street Youth Center & Clinic and Success Centers and one day hopes to attend law school here in San Francisco.
HSH first encountered 39-year-old, Thomas*, through the Encampment Resolution Team in October 2019. Thomas was born in the U.S. but raised in Hong Kong with his Mother until the age of 17. He moved back to the U.S. alone to attend college at San Francisco State. Starting a chapter all alone continents away from any family members had its ups and downs.
Unfortunately, his feelings of loneliness turned into depression which led to addiction and then homeless in 2011. Thomas worked odd jobs off and on, but they were hard to keep while living on the streets. After nine years of being on the streets of San Francisco, he accepted help from the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team. He expressed himself to the team with the powerful statement, “I can’t do this anymore.”
HSH was able to get Thomas connected with shelter services. When his reservations ended, he went back to the streets. On nights it was too cold to be in a tent, he would stay in a vehicle with friends. During the day, he would work odd jobs to save up enough to purchase a car where he would sleep.
It was a perilous journey for him. He lost many cellphones sleeping outside so it would sometimes be months that he would be out of contact. The San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team was finally able to support him and he was placed in a stabilization room at the Kean hotel earlier this year and from there HSH was able to work with him toward permanent housing .
A huge success milestone was achieved in September 2021 when Thomas was permanently housed at the El Dorado Hotel. He also went on to connect with an organization that helps people secure employment opportunities. Although it was not a simple or quick turnaround, it was a great success, and he is extremely thankful for the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team and all the other organizations that helped him on this journey to his goals: housing and employment.
86-year-old Grant (U.S. Navy), and his daughter, Regina, 65 (U.S. Air Force Reserve), are celebrating a very special Father’s Day. It’s their first Father’s Day living together in the new Maceo May permanent supportive housing for Veterans, managed by the nonprofit Swords to Plowshares. Grant joined the Navy as a young man before finishing college and launching a decades-long successful career in the Computer Software business. However, his struggles with memory loss and other health issues eventually spiraled into homelessness.
Like her Dad, Regina was drawn to military service and joined the Air Force Reserve in the mid-1970s. After her military service, Regina struggled as a young single mother in San Francisco. Despite working as a Nursing Aid, her safety net of savings depleted quickly when she had to rely on hotel accommodations when affordable apartments were inaccessible. In 2016, she connected with social services who referred her to Swords to Plowshares’ Service Center at 1060 Howard Street. When she shared her story at a support group there, a Swords to Plowshares staffer immediately acknowledged her identity as a veteran and connected her with housing support. “Swords offered so much care and support that I could start crying,” says Regina.
After briefly bunking with her dad in his cramped one-bedroom during the pandemic, Regina and Grant took Swords to Plowshares staff’s advice and applied to their newest housing development, the Maceo May Apartments. Located on Treasure Island, its 104 units include multi-room residenc
ies for veterans with families. Father and Daughter moved in May 2023, quickly after the building opened. Now they have their own bedrooms, a private bathroom, and a kitchen. Regina describes the offer as, “winning the lottery.”
“To put an end to veteran homelessness in San Francisco, programs need to include housing that can provide for families,” says Colleen Murakami, Chief Development Officer at Swords to Plowshares. “It’s an honor to be able to provide a dignified place for families like Regina and Grant to stay connected.”
Today, father and daughter enjoy folding laundry together, taking in the view on the second-floor observation deck, and socializing with other Veterans. “My favorite word is fun,” says Grant. “And it is fun living here.”
Over the holidays we were able to transition, Brenda*, a 59 year old woman, who had been homeless her entire life, from a SIP hotel into permanent supportive housing. Brenda signed her lease on December 30th and rang in the new year in her new home. One of Brenda’s greatest joys is finally being able to cook again. Nonprofit Brilliant Corners provided the woman with kitchenware and she was able to cook her favorite dish, collard greens. As an older homeless woman who uses a walker, Brenda struggled on the streets and had trouble hanging onto her belongings and phone. Today, with stable permanent housing, Brenda is grateful to make homecooked meals to drop off for her friends.
Caressa, a 40 year old Asian Filipino transgender woman experiencing homelessness, spent most of January in the hospital with COVID before recovering in temporary housing at a Shelter-in-Place hotel. While grateful for the medical care, she longed for a more permanent residence. In late March, just before she celebrated Easter, Caressa got her wish and was approved for a permanent supportive housing unit at the Granada Hotel, a hotel purchased though the State’s Project Homekey funding. In addition to her unit, Caressa receives caregiving services twice a week through Homebridge. Homebridge provides care, laundry service, and cleaning to keep Caressa’s space neat and tidy. Caressa also receives meal delivery every afternoon. Her favorite meals include tuna casserole, lasagna and fish sticks. She’s especially appreciative of the regular diet of vegetables and fruit. “It’s a relief to have food and a stable place to live,” says Caressa. “Thank God I have a roof over my head and don’t have to be out in the cold.”
Dante grew up in San Francisco with his extended family, including his Grandmother. As an adult his life became less stable and through a series of low level offenses, he became involved in the Community Justice Court (CJC) program. Although Dante began to stabilize, his housing situation became precarious and he spent time in shelters and sleeping rough on the streets. After graduating from the CJC program the judge and staff helped Dante connect with the city’s Emergency Housing Voucher program, which provides assistance in finding housing within 90 days. Dante recalls this as one of the greatest moments of his life. After three years of very dark times, including an infected almost amputated leg, Dante was on a journey to housing. He found his dream home in the Nob Hill neighborhood and is grateful to have his own kitchen and private bathroom. Dante says the best thing about having a home is that he can know focus on his health and take better care of himself. He is looking forward to getting back to work and possibly going to school to become a counselor. Dante would like to help others and give back to the San Francisco community that supported him when he needed it most.
David T. was born and raised in San Francisco. Growing up in the Visitacion Valley projects, he played a lot of sports and thought he was going to be a pro baseball player. But despite his parent’s warnings not to get involved with drugs, David was soon in a cycle of using and selling. After the family home burned down, everything was gone and David found himself experiencing homelessness. David spent several years in a work program, but with his addiction increasing he was terminated from the program. Due to his health needs, David was outreached to and invited into the Shelter in Place (SIP) hotel program. Says David, “If it wasn’t for the SIP program, I don’t know where I’d be.” As part of the SIP program wind down, David was offered permanent supportive housing at 835 Turk Street. “When I walk through these front doors, I’m home,” David says of his new home. Today, David takes what he calls a safe walk – up the street to St. Mary’s Cathedral where he says he talks to God. He also visits the nearby park where he played baseball as a teenager. With stable housing, David is able to work on his detox plan to enter a 90-day program. “Without stable housing, I couldn’t get healthy,” said David. “Now that I’m home, I’m really feeling better.”
Originally from Ecuador, Rosa C, 67, lived on Church Street in San Francisco with her husband for 25 years. They raised their five children in the family friendly Noe Valley neighborhood. When Rosa’s husband passed away, she stayed on in their apartment, but the sudden death of her landlord soon led to her displacement. Although she fought the eviction in court, she was eventually forced to move out. A priest helped Rosa find a one room apartment in the Bayview, but the rent increased every month. The situation was not sustainable. Looking for housing stability, Rosa, who worked full time, took her savings, and purchased a used RV. She parked the RV in the Bayview and lived a block from her former apartment. An adult son stayed with her and helped with the vehicle payments.
The San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team (SFHOT) helped Rosa connect with the Bayview Vehicle Triage Center (VTC), where Rosa was able to safely park her RV and immediately begin accessing services. The Urban Alchemy team at the VTC made Rosa feel at home and provided much needed meals while she continued to work full-time.
On her birthday there was an unexpected knock on her RV door from Catholic Charities staff who Rosa calls, “God’s angels”. They told her about an Emergency Housing Voucher program that would allow Rosa to move into an apartment. Fearful of leaving her RV and the only stability she had known for more than a decade at the VTC; she nonetheless viewed the opportunity as “God’s blessing” and went to look at apartments. She found her new one bedroom home in the bustling Excelsior neighborhood using her Emergency Housing Voucher.
Nonprofit Bayview Hunters Point Foundation stepped in and supplied furniture, bedding, housewares and everything Rosa needed to turn her apartment into a home. Rosa says she’s relieved to leave the cold and uncertain street life behind. She feels safe in her new home and loves the social interactions with her neighbors. “That’s how I live,” she says today. “Happy and grateful to God for the good people he put in front of me and for the city that helped me.”
Fareedah Shabazz, the first tenant housed via Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, had been back and forth between homelessness and incarceration for ten years, and most recently was residing at a Shelter-In-Place (SIP) Hotel in San Francisco. Despite barriers to housing, Fareedah’s case managers and housing coordinators worked diligently to ensure Fareedah was welcomed to her new home with open arms.
When longtime San Francisco landlord Wayne H. got a call from Brilliant Corners, a non-profit partner in the City’s Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, he was intrigued. Wayne initially decided to limit his entry into the Flex Pool housing portfolio with just two vacant 1-bedroom apartments. “Sometimes people just need a helping hand,” says Wayne. Now, there is a growing, successful partnership between Wayne and Brilliant Corners. “If I had a concern, Brilliant Corners was hands on and responsive and that made the Flex Pool appealing to me,” explains Wayne. “Property managers don’t want to marginalize the tenants. We want to cultivate trust and sometimes a third party helps with that.” Today, Wayne has 20 rental units in the City’s Flex Pool program and he shares his positive Flex Pool landlord experience with other landlords. “It feels good to be helping and changing lives by getting people into housing,” says Wayne. “We’re all just people and everyone needs a place to call home.”
Thao believes in solving problems. As a matter of fact, he’s made a career out of solving problems for governments across the nation by modernizing operations like public meetings, public records, and public procurement. Thao describes his work as specializing in, “serving the people who serve the people.”
Thao moved to San Francisco in 2005 as part of the New Orleans Katrina diaspora. He sampled many of the neighborhoods in SF including the Castro, SOMA, Glen Park and Potrero Hill. Thao describes his early years in San Francisco as magical. He sang with the Gay Men’s Chorus and participated in the Leatherman’s Discussion Group. But life was not without its challenges and Thao became caught up in a struggle with substance abuse. With support from friends, family, and the San Francisco recovery community, he came out on the other side with a deeply held commitment to both recovery and service. He says, “I found in San Francisco what it meant to be a part of a community that supports each other.”
Eventually settling in Lower Nob Hill, the heart of the city, with his husband, Jack, Thao says he, “has seen both wonderful and heartbreaking things” in the most densely populated neighborhood of San Francisco. When a shelter for people experiencing homelessness at 711 Post was proposed, Thao’s neighborhood became very polarized. Says Thao, “I only heard the extremes of both sides, and they were so loud that most of the rest of us couldn’t hear each other.” Thao realized that there was a big gap of citizens in the middle and, in that middle, found a role for him and many others to play in addressing concerns while also helping the community “walk the talk when it came to creating an equitable neighborhood.”
When asked to spearhead a newly formed Lower Nob Hill Neighborhood Alliance, Thao put his beloved chorus activities on hold to give his full attention to the new endeavor. Working in partnership with city departments, the local police precinct and District Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office, Thao says, “If we really want to be the San Francisco we know we can be, we need to rally together. We need to hear and help each other.”
Thao and the Lower Nob Hill Neighborhood Alliance have been a significant factor in the success of the 711 Post Street Shelter. The group continues to support the nonprofit partners operating the shelter while providing helpful suggestions and insights to city departments. Asked to give advice to other neighborhoods, Thao says, “You can create a voice much stronger than your own and affect the positive change you want by actively and directly participating in the process. It takes vigilance, mutual respect, and regular coordination between a cross section of many city departments along with residents, business, and students to lift each other up and achieve what we know we’re capable of achieving”
Steven C. moved to San Francisco from Oklahoma 40 years ago for a career opportunity. Settling down in the Outer Mission/Excelsior neighborhood with his partner, Steven enjoyed the cosmopolitan feel of the city. An avid singer, he sang with the SF Symphony and with the choir at Grace Cathedral.
As president of the local Neighborhood Association, Steven worked closely with the local police precinct and District Supervisor to address issues in the neighborhood. Steven is passionate about the issue of homelessness and says, “It makes me sad when people don’t give a darn about their fellow neighbor. We need to have pride and decency toward everyone in the neighborhood.”
When a pilot Vehicle Triage Center (VTC) was proposed for Balboa Park Upper Yard, Steven was a leading proponent of the program from the beginning. He recalls feeling that it was “awesome to bring 40 people in off the street.” The neighborhood rallied behind Steven’s leadership and overcame initial trepidation about the VTC. The community was so welcoming that they donated a Christmas tree and presents to the appreciative Vehicle Triage guests. Steven would regularly drop off food from the SF Food Bank.
Steven believes in getting involved and working with the city. His philosophy is to “work with the system and make it better.” When a VTC was proposed for Candlestick Point, Steven shared his positive experience by giving public comment in support of the project.
Today Steven says that, “the VTC showed the community a solution to homelessness by humanizing and putting a face to the issue of homelessness.”