Homeless families benefiting from San Francisco's 'Stay Over' program

Backers of an ongoing plan sheltering homeless families in San Francisco say the program is working and reaching families in need. 

During school hours Buena Vista Horace Mann is a house of education, where kids in kindergarten through eighth grade come to learn. But at night the gym has served as the headquarters for the "Stay Over" program a temporary home to dozens of families.

Families like Klancy Viscarra's. She, her husband and two children moved to San Francisco 11 months ago from El Salvador and found themselves without a place to stay. Her family stayed at the school for two months, and are now in transitional housing, waiting for a permanent home. 

"We have transitioned out of the emergency Stay Over program and now we're at Hamilton, and we're also hoping that we can have our own private apartment as well," Viscarra said in Spanish. 

Now, a new report is offering insight into the stay over program saying families like Viscarra's are benefitting. Three-quarters of the families taking part in the stay over program are Latino, many speaking only Spanish.

Laura Valdez from Dolores Street Community Services, the nonprofit organization that runs the Stay Over program, says it is serving an underserved, and sometimes overlooked population in San Francisco. 

"I think it is a testament to the fact that when you have a vulnerable population such as the Latinx immigrant community that language access and having culturally responsive services is key," said Valdez.

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen pushed for the idea in 2018. 

At first, the school just served the families of kids who attended Buena Vista Horace Mann, the program now expanded citywide and 59 families have called the school home. The controller's report shows that about two-thirds of families exit the program on the way to permanent housing. 

"When we engage these families in the Stay Over program it's the first step toward getting them the wrap-around services that get them stable, get them back on track, and get them stably housed," said Supervisor Ronen.

Supporters say at this time the Stay Over program seems to be meeting San Francisco's needs, so there are no plans for expansion but it will continue. Backers hope to share the idea with other areas with homeless families to see if it can be adapted to their needs as well.