We serve the least visible members of the San Francisco Bay Area homeless population: school kids with hopes and dreams deferred who live with their parents in cars, shelters, single-room occupancy hotels or bed-hop from relative to relative.
Although homeless families make up a high percentage of those without stable housing situations, they are often the least visible members of this population. It is estimated that 2,200+ kids currently enrolled in the San Francisco public schools are homeless, along with their families.
Though these children are struggling with a great many difficulties, they remain resilient, energetic, creative and passionate. Home Away offers these children stability and comfort during a tumultuous time in their lives. We also connect them to resources they need: tutoring, mentorship, counseling and legal help.
At Home Away we work with children from a number of shelters and transitional housing programs, including the Hamilton Family Center, Central City SRO Collaborative, Raphael House, Compass Family Services, St. Joseph’s Family Center and Clara House.
We measure our success in a variety of ways, but the most important measures are the achievements of the young people we work with. Here are just two of the recent success stories from Home Away.
Yoseline wrote the following essay when she was 14, and in 8th grade. She participated in School House until she graduated high school. Now a young adult, she has an Associates Degree from Skyline Community College, and works as an outdoor educator in the Marin Headlands. She stays in touch with Home Away, and often attends our fundraising events to support our programming.
How Home Away Changed My Life
My after-school program, the School House, has changed my life. The people there have helped me so much for the last few years, both at home and at school. I was raised in shelters, and the people at the School House understood where I came from. Because of them, I am in honors courses. Because of them, I am the person I am today.
I didn’t care about school when I joined the School House in the middle of fifth grade. I was a troublemaker. My teacher didn’t like me, and I knew she didn’t like me. At the School House, people respect each other. The adults act like friends to all of us, but they have also pushed me to do better in school and in my behavior. When I signed up for the School House, everyone there gave me a hug, even though they didn’t know me yet. I thought that was strange at the time, but today I would do the same thing for a new person, to help him or her feel welcome.
The School House staff helped me get a scholarship to Mission Dolores, and that made a big difference for me. If I had stayed in public school, I think I would have kept not caring about learning and about grades. I needed to be around other people who cared about what they did and set goals for themselves. The staffers also helped me with problems at home and helped me get a therapist. I always feel relaxed at the School House, even when it’s time to work hard. I learned how to organize myself and how to have fun while still working to get good grades.
Because of School House, I know that I’m going somewhere. I know that I will graduate from high school and go to college. I believe in my future and want to make a difference for other people, the way School House did for me.
Anna joined School House when she was in 6th grade. Her younger brother also attends School House. Now a junior in high school, Anna's passion is art. School House volunteers helped her create the portfolio she needed to successfully apply to SOTA, San Francisco's competitive public arts-focused high school. Most recently, she has begun to explore oil painting, and to consider what colleges she will apply to. Below is the watercolor still-life she painted with a volunteer for her high-school portfolio application.