Homeless program for SF students and families receives praise

City Controller’s audit finds Buena Vista Horace Mann program has served at least 193 people

A new program at Buena Vista Horace Mann School that helps connect homeless families to services and housing has served 193 people since November of 2018, according to a city audit released Monday.

The “Stay Over Program” was launched at the school with the help of Supervisor Hillary Ronen and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to initially serve homeless families who attend Horace Mann, but later, in April 2019, expanded to serve families of students attending other schools throughout the San Francisco Unified School District.

The City Controller’s audit of the program, released Monday, focused on the 59 families, or 193 individuals, who were served in the first 11 months of the program, November 2018 through September 2019.

“Nearly two-thirds of SOP families have exited from the program to their next placement on the path to secure housing,” the audit found. “Six families are renting their own place.”

The “path to secure housing” includes “other temporary shelter placements, including individual room shelters and transitional housing.”

The audit said that “in a relatively short time as a pilot program, SOP has provided a culturally responsive service that directly meets the needs of SFUSD Spanish-speaking families experiencing homelessness or housing instability for the first time.”

The services are provided by Dolores Street Community Services.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Buena Vista Horace Mann school community for coming up with the concept of the Stay Over Program, for offering their school space for our most vulnerable families to lay their heads at night, and for working with my office to develop this innovative model,” Ronen said in a statement.

She added that the program has “addressed the needs of a population who the city has not previously been able to effectively serve—Latino Spanish-speaking families.”

Mayor London Breed also praised the program.

“The expanded Buena Vista Horace Mann Stay Over program provides a safe place for families experiencing homelessness, and I’m glad we were successful in expanding the program to serve families throughout our school district,” Breed said. “Our goal is to get families placed in permanent housing, and the program at BVHM helps us reach those families who are experiencing homelessness to get them connected to services and into homes.”

The program was launched a year after the school district identified 64 families at the school who “lacked safe or stable housing.”

More than 30 schools referred their students to the program. It’s estimated there are more than 1,800 students in the school district who are homeless,

A gym at the school was converted into an overnight family shelter, which opened November 15, 2018 and operates seven days week, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. on weekends.

The program costs $1.2 million through to June 2020, which breaks down to a cost of $34.51 per bed per night.

“Most families and key stakeholders have had positive experiences with SOP,” the audit said.

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