The Lifestyle of Giving
Tim Gaskin CEO/ Editor in Chief
Jan / Feb, 2007
Three cold nights went by after a windstorm blew out the pilot light on my home heater. While those were some of the wettest, most bone-chilling days of the winter season, I had much to be grateful for, such as the roof over my head and the fact that my water heater still worked.
Next morning I jumped into my truck and drove to Starbucks on my way to the gym, passing scores of homeless along the way. Some were already awake at 6 a.m, most were curled up on pieces of cardboard, sleeping in doorways. Many have lived on the streets for extended periods of time. Many suffer addiction and mental health problems.
These visible homeless are people. They are us. They’re staying in shelters, cars, cheap by-the-night hotels or, at best, temporarily with friends or family. Most have struggled with homelessness and poverty for years, if not their entire lives. Twenty-five percent of them represent families with children, the fastest growing segment of our country’s homeless population.
An enduring challenge that many homeless face is that San Francisco is an expensive place to live. Today there are 320 people, or about 90 families, in the city’s homeless-family shelter system, and another 90 families are on the wait list for shelter. Research shows that at-risk or homeless families suffer greatly from low or no income, high cost of housing and a lack of a functional extended family system. Many work at entry level, low-wage earning jobs and live in tripled-up housing situations. Moreover, childcare costs for a preschooler amount to 48 percent of a full-time, minimum-wageworker’s income.
Raphael House, a Sutter Street homeless shelter that has served more than 10,000 parents and children since 1971, has partnered with San Francisco landlord CitiApartments and Benefit to create a pilot program called CitiWatch. This partnership is turning hard-to-rent units into homes for pre-screened homeless families who sign a $1-a-year rental agreement. Over the holidays, CitiWatch rented its first two efficiency studios to two homeless dads and their sons. Moving conveniently close to Raphael House will allow the families to return there for daily dinners and youth evening activities. Their AfterCare Program offers children’s activities, outings and ongoing supplementary food and clothing to over 1,000 children and their parents long after they leave the facilities.
Sophie Azouaou of SophiSticate Interiors, poured her time, money, and resources into transforming the $850-a-month studios into restful sanctuaries for the families. CitiApartments plans to donate additional units and is challenging other multi-unit landlords to do the same.
Benefit covers a lot of issues. The challenges faced by the homeless are fundamental to how we must live together. Look to our pages as CitiWatch helps more homeless families find permanent housing and encourages city landlords-and you-to get involved.
Feeling cold for a few days is endurable, going hungry and homeless, isn’t. Do the fashionable thing, reach into your pocket and give more, reach deep into yourself and do more. Raphaelhouse.org
CEO/Editor in Chief