Services fall short for homeless families

The impact of San Francisco’s homeless crisis on families came into view Thursday during an open house at the office of homeless advocacy group Compass Family Services.

The session highlighted success stories and problems still needing to be solved. An estimated 2,300 families, consisting of more than 3,200 children, are homeless in San Francisco.

Compass Family Services Program Director for the Drop-In Center Kristin Keller said:

“The need is so great.”

One of the biggest problems to housing families is that it’s taking six to 12 months for a family to get into a three- to six-month shelter, the first step on the road to permanent housing. Families also don’t know what services are available or what their rights are, Keller said.

Making matters worse, sometimes families are even turned away from emergency shelters where they sleep on mattresses on the floor of a church for a night.

Keller did not say where the families go if they cannot get into an emergency shelter.

The housing crisis where more families are being evicted and rent is going up and a multigenerational cycle of poverty are among the reasons for homelessness, Compass Family Services spokesman Stacy Webb said.

Last year, the organization served 5,897 parents and children. A majority of the families are single mothers with one or more children. The organization expects to serve more than 6,000 parents and children this year.

Keller said there is no pressure on politicians to do more for homeless families because parents will stay anywhere and aren’t seen on the streets as single men and women are.

So services for families lack funding, Keller said.

Despite the lack of money, the program at Compass Family Services has achieved success.

Kazakhstani immigrants Olga Aznabakiyyeva, her husband Aziz Aznabakiyyev and their children Amina, 5 and Saniya, 4 are now looking for a home to buy after getting help.

The family started by getting acquainted with the organization’s day care center while they lived in a hostel.

In two months, they obtained a two-bedroom apartment in the Bayview and now Olga has earned three coding certificates. She’s ready to start work as a programmer, she said.

She and her husband want one day to be donors to Compass Family Services, she said.

Regina Bates was homeless for three years. Now she’s working again and has a one-bedroom apartment for herself and her two daughters Asha, 11, and Abria, 7.

The three stayed in two shelters before getting an apartment in Vallejo. Bates ended up homeless after giving notice to her landlord and then was unexpectedly laid off from work.

Her plan now is to open her own business to help the homeless.