When a Health Crisis Becomes a Housing Crisis

David and his teenage son, Steven arrived at Compass Family Shelter, a partner of United Way Bay Area after many long months sleeping in emergency shelters throughout San Francisco.

Originally from Kentucky, the two hitchhiked to California in search of adequate medical care for David. A veteran of the US Navy, David suffered major physical trauma following a gunshot wound to the knee. Later, while working a warehouse job, his spine was fractured and caused permanent disability. These injuries and worsening chronic health issues, led David and his son to leave their rural hometown to find better medical treatment in California.

After several months of hitchhiking, sleeping on friends’ couches and camping out in parks, David and Steven arrived in California. They enrolled in the Compass Connecting Point family shelter (CFS) waitlist and when they arrived, the then 17-year-old Steven recalls, “it finally felt like we had a home. It was almost like our own little apartment. I put posters on the wall!”

Staying at the shelter provided the family with their own space and a chance to rest and stabilize. David was able to receive regular medical treatment, and Steven returned to high school. With the support they received from shelter staff, David applied for veteran’s benefits and numerous housing opportunities. Steven’s school attendance improved and he started working an after-school job through a specialized tech program at his high school.

Eventually, the family’s hard work and determination paid off. Their application to a housing program in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood was accepted, and just three weeks before Steven’s 18th birthday, he and his father moved into their own apartment. The family remains in contact with Compass staff and recently shared the good news that David was approved to begin receiving benefits from the VA. In his last note to shelter staff, David asked that they “give everyone my gratitude for all that Compass has done.”

 

Compass Family Services provides shelter to homeless families with children in San Francisco. They have 22 individual rooms for families and serve about 75 families (or over 200 adults and children) every year.

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