Family House will follow UCSF to Mission Bay

Low-income families who don’t have a place to live while their children receive life-saving treatment will soon have a new place to stay.

That’s because Bay Area nonprofit Family House will be opening a new location in Mission Bay with 80 rooms designed to temporarily house 250 people cost-free.

Family House opened in 1981 to serve patients and families at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital at its Parnassus Campus. Two locations near UCSF assist out-of-town families whose children are undergoing treatment with temporary free food and housing.

CEO Alexandra Morgan said her organization provides a social safety net for families dealing with their child’s cancer:

“Family House doesn’t just provide housing. What we provide is dignity. What we want is for every family to live in dignity.”

After the UCSF Medical Center Mission Bay debuts on Third Street between 16th and Mariposa — expected in early 2015 — Family House will follow, said Morgan:

“A key to our success it to be close to the hospital.”

Morgan said that because of UCSF’s cutting-edge research, the hospital receives patients from all over the world, including those participating in clinical trials or other last-resort treatments.

With a minimum of paperwork, Family House can provide a family with shelter and food. Family House can even help with funeral costs, if it comes to that, said Morgan:

“They have no financial worries while they’re here. They’re among people who understand what they’re going through.”

The 30,000-square feet Mission Bay location, to be named The Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House, will replace the organization’s current facilities on Irving Street and 10th Avenue and more than double their housing capacity.

Family House currently has 34 rooms available to house 107 people a night and 2,000 every year. However, the organization is constantly forced to turn away families for lack of space.

Social workers from the hospital decide which families have traveled the farthest and have the greatest need with cancer patients receiving first priority.

With its new expanded location — along with a partnership with the Ronald McDonald House — Family House and UCSF aim to provide a bed for every family member who needs one.

The Ronald McDonald House will offer 10 bedrooms inside the new Children’s Hospital for families who simply don’t want to leave the building. The hospital also plans to put sleeping chairs in every pediatric patient’s room.

Account Coordinator Lindsay Cumming said UCSF draws patients from all over California, and with the high price of San Francisco hotels, housing can become a serious burden:

“Very often they get a diagnosis and they have to start treatment the next day.”

Family House founder Dr. Arthur Ablin said his goal was to provide housing free from financial burdens for every family whose child is suffering:

“We’ve been so limited in the past, but with the increased size of Family House at Mission Bay, we will be able to help all local families who need our services. With this new land, that dream will become a reality.”

The organization’s current locations will remain open until construction on the Mission Bay location is finished, approximately one year after the new hospital opens.