Homeless Children’s Network (HCN) provides comprehensive case management, direct services, and highly viable referrals to homeless and formerly homeless families with children ages 0-25 years and expectant parents who are homeless, formerly homeless, or at risk for homelessness. HCN’s inception in 1992 originated with a few long-time directors throughout San Francisco who all managed homeless shelters for families.
One problem the directors continually witnessed was the fact that there was no continuity provided to homeless families as they moved between various transitional housing sites. That fragmentation was so disorganizing to homeless families who were already tremendously overwhelmed that many parents and children opted to remain isolated and unhoused, rather than agree to the availability of temporary housing and be subject the inevitable unpredictability and competing priorities.
People need stability to thrive. And yet, each homeless shelter only had funding to meet the temporary housing needs of families, with no funding to create further support. Some sites allowed 3 – 6 weeks of residency, while others allowed 3-6 months. The reality was that the families had to leave their providers whom they’d grown to trust after a short while, only to be asked to form other trusting relationships that were also destined to end shortly. The impact of these serial provider transitions was devastating on children.
Additionally, each provider and agency functioned alone. There was neither communication nor cross-pollination between agencies and hence tremendous duplication of services which led to greater fragmentation. Gaps in services and an uneven standard of care between homeless shelters was common.
Out of the insights and experiences of these directors came a vision to unify the service agencies providing care for homeless children and their parents, and to strengthen the intentional support provided to various housing staff. The larger purpose was to create a hub organization that would be the organization and unifying voice for the entire collaborative, while addressing the complex psychosocial needs of homeless children, youth, and their parents.