Report Finds SFUSD "Stay Over Program" Successful in Helping Homeless Families
Controller’s Office evaluation found overnight shelter at Buena Vista Horace Mann School provides families experiencing homelessness with a safe place to sleep at night, especially families who are Latino and speak Spanish, and has successfully connected families to housing resources
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Hillary Ronen today received the Controller’s evaluation of the Buena Vista Horace Mann (BVHM) Stay Over Program (SOP) for homeless families, located at the Mission District K-8 school. The City Performance Unit of the Controller’s Office conducted an evaluation of SOP to understand how it works, who it serves, and how well it helps San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) families experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity obtain more stable housing situations. They found that the expansion of the program in April 2019 significantly increased program utilization and cost effectiveness. The shelter has served 59 families since opening, with nearly two-thirds of families exiting from the program on the path to secure housing, with 40% of individuals moving into transitional housing and six individuals renting their own place.
SOP allows families experiencing homelessness to stay overnight in the school gymnasium. Through the program, families are connected to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s (HSH) Coordinated Entry Access Points to help them secure more stable housing. The shelter operates seven days a week, from 7:00pm to 7:00am on school days and 5:00pm to 10:00am on weekends and school breaks, and includes all-night staffing, food, and supportive services.
“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,” said Mayor Breed. “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.”
“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,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “For over two years, my office has worked closely with BVHM, the school district, the Department of Homelessness and Dolores Street Community Services to create this program, and I am thrilled to see the positive results. The Stay Over Program not only enables us to provide much needed emergency services and refuge to housing insecure students and their families, but it has also addressed the needs of a population who the city has not previously been able to effectively serve—Latino Spanish-speaking families.”
The report found that 74% of individuals connected through the SOP identified as Latino and at least 32% speak Spanish as their primary language. The Controller’s Office found that the program has provided a culturally responsive service that directly meets the needs of Spanish-speaking families experiencing homelessness or housing instability for the first time.
The Controller’s Office also found that the services at the SOP include unique features not present in other congregate emergency family shelters. For example, the BVHM shelter provides language services, showers on site, a secure storage area, and families can reserve space at the shelter for multiple days at a time. The Controller’s Office found that nearly all participating families were assessed at an Access Point, where families can access the system of care and available resources.
In 2017, SFUSD identified 64 families whose children are students at BVHM and lacked safe and stable housing. In November 2018, following significant advocacy from the BVHM leadership and school community, the City entered into a partnership with SFUSD to pilot the shelter at BVHM. The pilot program initially allowed for up to 20 families with children enrolled in BVHM experiencing homelessness to stay overnight in the school gymnasium.
Soon after the launch of the program, Mayor Breed, Supervisor Ronen, SFUSD, HSH, and Dolores Street teams recognized the SOP had capacity to serve more families beyond BVHM alone. In February 2019, Mayor Breed sent a letter to SFUSD’s Board of Education urging the School Board to approve the expansion of SOP. Following the advocacy of Mayor Breed, Supervisor Ronen, and the BVHM school leadership, SFUSD Superintendent Matthews requested that the SOP be open to other families experiencing homelessness who have students enrolled in SFUSD schools.
As a result, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to expand the shelter program to serve families with students in all SFUSD schools instead of just families with students at BVHM. Mayor Breed and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing identified the funding to operate the program for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.
Once the SOP opened to all SFUSD students in April 2019, overnight occupancy increased significantly, reaching a monthly average occupancy of 65%, up from an average 5% before April.
In 2018, SFUSD identified 1,806 students experiencing homelessness. Using a school gym to temporarily house families experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity who have children attending that school or another school in the district is a new model for San Francisco and the country and an innovative strategy to support the needs of homeless families seeking immediate refuge.
“Whenever the City implements new programs, it’s important to ask ourselves whether funds are being spent wisely and judiciously,” said City Controller Ben Rosenfield. “We’re proud of our office’s efforts to support and inform the networks and programs that serve the most vulnerable families in San Francisco. Ensuring government accountability will continue to be our focus as the City works to address access to stable housing for our residents.”
“We are encouraged by the early findings in the Controller’s Office evaluation,” said Jeff Kositsky, Director of HSH. “The pilot expands access to our system of care for vulnerable families who might not otherwise have been connected to resources. Programs like this, which bring resources of the community through innovative partnerships, are critical.”
“We know that kids who lack a stable place to sleep at night are less likely to show up ready to learn. Homelessness is a barrier to learning, and is at the center of our immediate work as educators. We looked deeply at this need and in partnership with our District Supervisor Ronen brought our community together around the idea of opening our gym at night to families without other options. The outcome has meant less families on the street, safer students, and growing trust with our most vulnerable families,” said Nicholas Chandler, the School Social Worker at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School.
“All of us at Dolores Street Community Services are proud of the extensive and strong collaborative case management model that we have built in partnership with the Department of Homelessness and the school district for SOP families,” said Laura Valdez, Executive Director of Dolores Street Community Services, the non-profit organization that runs the Stay Over Program. “We are humbled by the resilience of the families at the Stay Over Program and their determination to have an exit out of homelessness. Yesterday, one of our families who had been at the SOP for several months, a grandmother raising her young granddaughter, received the keys to their new apartment. We can’t forget that homelessness is a traumatic event in a child's life that has an impact on their education, health, sense of safety, and overall development. As we move forward the work of the Stay Over Program, we will continue to center the right of every child to have a home.”
“It is critical as educators that we support our families most in need,” said SFUSD Board of Education President Stevon Cook. “We are grateful for the partnerships of the school, district, and City to come up with innovative solutions to the struggles that too many families are facing in San Francisco right now.”
To view the full report, please visit: http://openbook.sfgov.org/webreports/details3.aspx?id=2791.