In 2007, Alice Mabry was raising her son, confident that with her ambition and education, things would only get brighter.
But in a matter of months she lost her job, and it all crumbled. The pair landed in a San Francisco homeless shelter.
“Never in a million years did I think I would end up in a shelter. I have a college education. Not me,” said 41-year-old Mabry. “But people can be one paycheck away from homelessness.”
The economic and foreclosure crises have hit families like Mabry’s hard.
Shelter beds for single homeless people go vacant in San Francisco, but there are 214 families on a waiting list for accommodations, according to the Human Services Agency and Hamilton Family Center, The City’s largest family shelter. One year ago, 135 families were on the waiting list. In March 2007, there were 82.
The need is so great that San Francisco opened its emergency family winter shelter on Thursday, nearly two months early.
“It’s very different than what we see for single adults. We continue to run vacant beds in single adult shelters, but that is absolutely not the case with families,” said Dariush Kayhan, director of homeless policy for Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Mabry, now the patient account representative at California Pacific Medical Center, is a success story. She secured rental assistance through Hamilton Family Center and is now living with her 13-year-old son in a two-bedroom apartment in Pleasanton.
Families are still a small percentage of San Francisco’s overall homeless population. According to The City’s January count,
549 people out of the 6,514 total homeless were homeless alongside their families.
If there’s a bright spot on the horizon for homeless families, it’s in federal stimulus funding.
On Thursday, Hamilton Family Center began its project to rehouse 60 homeless families and youths during the course of the next year with
$1.2 million in stimulus funds. It’s partnering in the project with
Larkin Street Youth Services, Asian Women’s Shelter and La Casa de las Madres.
Hamilton’s homeless prevention program and Catholic Charities jointly received $6.8 million to provide 75 families with housing subsidies for six months or longer.
The City also received $8.75 million in federal stimulus money, which it will use to provide rent subsidies to homeless families.