Emergency Relief Program, Homelessness & Housing

Showing Heart in the Heart of the Tenderloin Community

by Catholic Charities – July 21, 2021

Maria takes a deep breath, adjusts her mask, and rings the doorbell at 456 Ellis Street in her Tenderloin neighborhood. This densely populated district has had some of the highest COVID rates in all of San Francisco. Like many of her neighbors, Maria lost her job when the pandemic hit and is now months behind in rent, having already gone through her savings. She is worried about becoming homeless.

At the door, Maria is greeted with a smile, a pen, and an application by Gloria del Mar, Program Manager of the Catholic Charities Emergency Relief Program. This is one of many homelessness prevention programs at our Catholic Charities Homelessness & Housing Services Division, headed by Erick Brown. Maria is here at our new Tenderloin office to apply for rental assistance through the Catholic Charities Emergency Relief Program, which has been helping the Tenderloin community from the start of the pandemic. And as of June 2021, thanks to an important partnership with La Voz Latina – a project of Tenderloin Housing Clinic – the Catholic Charities program has expanded its team and landed a new office at Ellis Street, in the heart of the community it serves.

For many years, Catholic Charities was part of the Tenderloin neighborhood community at a different location. “Our return to Tenderloin aims to provide support to residents who may need financial assistance in order to remain stably housed during a very difficult time, in one of the most expensive cities in the nation,” says Brown.

Maria found her way to us because of Catholic Charities’ and La Voz Latina’s on-the-ground community outreach to identify Tenderloin families and individuals who would be eligible for rental assistance. Her story is one of many in the Tenderloin district, where Catholic Charities and La Voz Latina work to help keep families and individuals housed: going door-to-door, encouraging families in need to apply for assistance, and helping them through the process. Pratibha Tekkey, Program Director at La Voz Latina, says, “Our new partnership with Catholic Charities enables us to reach even more people in need.”

Jose Cartagena serves as the Program Director for the Catholic Charities Emergency Relief Program throughout San Francisco, including many communities in the Bayview and Mission Districts that are struggling to recover from the pandemic. The Catholic Charities team witness first-hand the ever-increasing need for the Catholic Charities Emergency Relief Program. “We are very proud to be serving neighborhoods where the needs are greatest, doing so with compassionate teams,” says Cartagena. “COVID will go away, but we will continue providing services in the community.” The new office in Tenderloin joins Catholic Charities’ many other programs throughout the city that serve individuals and families in their own neighborhood community.

Now back on track with rent, Maria says, “I would’ve had no idea these rental and housing assistance services were available if Catholic Charities and La Voz Latina hadn’t knocked on my door.” The Emergency Relief Program’s efforts to provide housing support is just one of the many ways that Catholic Charities engages with communities in need all across San Francisco.