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Public and private sector program moves financial aid fast to homeless families

Joshua Davis and nine-month-old son Barnabus Davis move from family shelter to permanent housing under a new program launched by the City geared toward fast financial help for homeless and at-risk families. Program architects, center, Salvador Menjivar, Director of Hamiltion Family Center; and from left, Hamiltion Family Center Board Members Beth Stokes and Pamela and Pamela Fishman Cianci.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Pat Murphy

July 11, 2006

The City stepped up efforts Monday to move homeless families into permanent housing as quickly as possible, reported Mayor Newsom.

Emphasis on new rent subsidies and eviction prevention guide the public and private sector strategy, detailed Director of Human Resources Trent Rohrer.

The strategy acknowledges families tend to become homeless more due to financial reasons rather than from substance abuse, alcoholism, or mental illiness, Rohrer continued.

And the program moves new and faster financial help to distressed families funded from the City general fund and private foundations.

Trent Rohrer

Known as 'First Avenues - Housing Solutions for Families,' the program is coordinated through the Hamilton Family Center, described as "the largest provider of shelter and support services for homeless and recently housed families" in San Francisco.

"Our plan to launch a broad homeless family system redesign is being realized today with First Avenues -- Housing Solutions for Families," said Newsom.

Mayor Newsom describes 'Housing First' as a first for the nation.

"In utilizing the "Housing First" approach which is now a housing model for the rest of the country, what we have done for single adults we can achieve the same level of success for families," the mayor stated.

The approach will lead to permanent rather than temporary solutions for homeless families, echoed Beth Stokes, a member of the Hamilton Family Center Board of Cirectors.

"We designed this program in hopes of providing permanent solutions," projected Stokes. Associate Director at Hamilton Family Center.

"In the last two years, we have implemented a small scale Housing First pilot project. Currently, we have six families receiving temporary rental subsidies."

"With the launch of the full program, we plan to roll out an addition 70 temporary rental subsides over the next 12 months," Stokes noted.

New rent subsidies average $500 monthly for one year, and continue for a second year if the family increases its income through employment during first year of subsidy.

In addition, first year participants receive household goods grants, emergency food distribution, and employment skills training.

Families at-risk for eviction receive mediation with landlords, loans to prevent eviction, and family payee services.

If an eviction occurs, the project pays moving and security deposit costs for relocation.

Newsom has budgeted $3 million for Housing First for the coming fiscal year.

Additional private and public supporters include the Schwab Foundation, the Louis R. Lurie Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, Salesforce.com Foundation, CitiApartments and the University of San Francisco.




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