Local Voices – Erica

Erica Kisch, LCSW, Executive Director, Compass Family Services, San Francisco:

Compass Family Services is a non-profit that has been building critical support to San Franciscans in need for one hundred years. We target families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness and help them to achieve long-term stability and well-being. Each year our organization serves some 2,000 children under the age of 18.

When a single mother of one came to our our front door, she was desperate for help and had finally worked up the courage to ask for it. The mother had fallen on hard times and reported that she was staying with two other families in a one-bedroom apartment. The apartment had 10 people in it, so the master tenant was violating the lease and everyone’s housing was in jeopardy. The home was crowded, dirty, and unhealthy. What made the situation even worse was that a man from one of the other families was physically abusing her young boy. At times she would stay temporarily in a motel, but her money would only offer her son a few days of protection, and then she would have to return with her son to a nightmarish environment.

Because of HUD’s rules, her family was not eligible to get on San Francisco’s waiting list for shelter, not eligible for our transitional housing program, and not eligible for our only open subsidy problem.

An amendment to the definition of homelessness would lift the handcuffs off our agency and allow us to serve others like this vulnerable mother and son.

Erica Kisch, LCSW

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About the photos: Photos of children and youth experiencing homelessness provided by Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc., used with permission. (c) 2012, Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc.