June 30, 2016

Homeless Families, Often Invisible, Take Shelter in SF Mission

By Laura Wenus Mission Local

Some of the city’s least visible but hardest hit homeless people take refuge at an inconspicuous shelter in the Mission District, where roughly 10 of the city’s thousands of homeless families can stay for several months at a time.

“Here, they treat you like family,” said one mother, Karen, who has stayed at the shelter since March. Karen was forced out of her home in the Bayview in October of 2015 after giving birth to her third child. Her landlord said the infant girl would put Karen’s family over the occupancy limit of her apartment.

“I cried a lot. I felt sad, frustrated, like there was nothing to be done,” she remembered of being thrown out. Karen is also a monolingual Spanish speaker, an additional challenge in navigating services or an employment search.

For the next five months, Karen lived primarily out of a car with her son, daughters, and husband. Her mother, who lives in San Francisco, would sometimes allow the family to stay, but limited capacity in her home and the mother’s boyfriend, who did not approve of hosting an additional family, made the arrangement unviable in the long term.

Karen’s situation is not unusual. Families in particular, said Kristin Keller, will go to extreme measures to make sure their children do not sleep on the streets. Keller is the program director of a drop-in center at Compass Family Services, which helps connect families facing homelessness with potential services.

“Parents will stay in bathrooms if they need to,” Keller said. “[One mother] found a 24-hour Carl’s Junior and the security guard was nice enough to rope off a corner for her and let her stay there.”

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