Hamilton Families Makes Big Strides To End Family Homelessness By 2020

[Editor's Note: Hoodline is participating in this week's SF Homeless Project, in which more than 80 area publications are each covering homelessness issues in their own ways.

While we already write about these issues often, we hope that our stories will add more neighborhood context to this very complicated topic, and to the great work being published elsewhere. You can read more about the project here.]

It's about time we checked in with Hamilton Families (formerly Hamilton Family Center), the NoPa and Upper Haight-based emergency and transitional housing center for families who are unstably housed. As of last year, the organization has been working toward a lofty goal of ending family homelessness by 2020. And the good news is they've made some significant progress.

We spoke with Rachel Kenemore, ‎senior development associate at Hamilton Families, who explained that the organization is working to service a backlog of homeless and at-risk families that has lingered since the recession. From 2007-2013, the number of unstable families in San Francisco more than doubled. In 2013, the number stabilized, but the city was never able to catch up with the increase, leaving a backlog of about 800 families who remain homeless for up to 14 months on average.

Even six months of homelessness can impair a child's executive function (mental processes that enable individuals to focus, plan, organize, think flexibly and more) irreparably, Kenemore explained.

Photo: Hamilton Families/Facebook

A crucial element of Hamilton Families' effort has been to work through that backlog of families via partnerships with the San Francisco Unified School District (which we explained in 2014), and more recently, via partnerships with landlords. 

In 2015, Hamilton formed a real estate team as part of a rapid rehousing plan for families on the waiting list. Once a family is identified as homeless or unstable, they receive a case manager who begins cold-calling landlords with open units. The case manager explains to the landlord that Hamilton will provide a background check, a credit check, any deposits on the space and a portion of the rent on the unit for 12-18 months. Once the family is settled in the unit, Hamilton is contacted first if there are any problems with the family, and the case worker serves as an intermediary between the landlord and tenant. 

The program has been so successful that it has reduced clients' homelessness from 14 months to six months, and 92 percent of families they've placed have remain housed, Kenemore said.

Additionally, landlords now call Hamilton when they have empty units instead of listing them. The number of landlords they work with has almost doubled over the past year. The result? They've housed about 100 of those 800 families in the backlog. 

While the organization is seeing great success with this new program, the community's help is needed. Hamilton Families is raising money to open a temporary office space to use through 2020 for their rapid rehousing campaign. You can donate to that effort here.

Holiday-specific volunteer and donation opportunities are also still available. Each December, Hamilton Family turns the basement of the big yellow church at Waller and Belvedere into 'Santa's Workshop.' Their goal is to ensure that every member of every family they work with receives a meaningful gift for the holidays. With 200 more families to serve this year than last, they need more help than ever.

Photo: Amy Stephenson / Hoodline

Community members can sponsor a family, or sign up to sort and wrap gifts or help decorate for their transitional housing holiday party. Here are the shifts they're looking to fill: 

  • 10am-1pm Dec. 9th: 10-12 volunteers needed at 1525 Waller St. Santa Workshop to help sort & organize our Transitional Housing gifts
  • 10am-12pm Dec. 15th: 10-12 volunteers needed at 1525 Waller St. to help wrap gifts for the  Emergency Shelter
  • 12:30- 2:30pm Dec. 16th: 10-12 volunteers needed at 1525 Waller St. to help sort Housing Solutions gifts.
  • 5:30-7:30pm Dec 16th: 4-6 volunteers needed at 1631 Hayes St. to help set up, support & clean up for Transitional Housing Holiday Party
  • 3:30-7:30pm Dec 21st: 4+6 volunteers needed at 260 Golden Gate to help set up, support & clean up for Emergency Shelter Holiday Party

To sponsor a family or volunteer for a volunteer shift, contact Christina Alton at calton[at]hamiltonfamilies[dot]org.

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Hamilton families makes big strides to end family homelessness by 2020