Safe Harbor Shelter Increases Clients’ Access to Programming

A special thank you to communications volunteer Monica MacMillan for contributing the following blog post.

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Since 1987, Samaritan House has been providing beds to the homeless as part of its efforts to meet the immediate and basic needs of low-income individuals in San Mateo County.  In 2000, Samaritan House opened Safe Harbor Shelter, a ninety-bed shelter located in South San Francisco.  In addition to providing the homeless with emergency shelter, safety, warmth, and sustenance, Safe Harbor offers healthcare assistance, substance abuse counseling, and job search assistance.  Historically, Safe Harbor has offered its clients referrals to outside agencies for these supplementary services.  Increasingly, however, it is trying to bring programs in-house.

“We want to support our clients as much as possible” by improving their access to programming, says Julia Parmer, the Mental Health Case Manager at Safe Harbor.  Because many clients don’t own their own transportation, it can be difficult for them to travel to outside agencies to get the help they need.  Moreover, “there is a lot of downtime [at the shelter].”  Programs offered on-site give clients a productive way to spend their time if they are not working.  Parmer has been offering group stress management counseling, and art therapy is coming soon.  Alcoholics Anonymous and Bible study groups meet weekly.  A new learning center with computers is also planned for the near future.

Course Hero, a local start-up company that allows college students to share their academic resources with each other, recently came to Safe Harbor to offer a free resume-building workshop.  Knowledgeable volunteers offered tips on how to market yourself, how to write a personalized cover letter, and what to do and not to do in an interview.  For clients who brought their existing resumes and cover letters, volunteers offered one-on-one editing sessions.  Course Hero plans to return periodically to provide its expertise to Safe Harbor clients.  “I’m happy that we’re in a position to help,” says John Stacey, co-founder and VP of Campus Programs.

For more information about Safe Harbor Shelter, please contact  650-873-4921.

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Asha’s Story: “Samaritan House was the lifeboat that saved me”

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Asha * never envisioned being on public assistance and seeking help for her family prior to coming through the doors of Samaritan House. Everything changed for her last year when, at the age of 58, she was laid-off from the banking job she had had for over a decade.

Residents of the Peninsula for almost 30 years, Asha and her husband immigrated to the U.S. from India in the 1980s. After a series of unforeseen circumstances, suddenly her family was faced with the decision of whether or not they could afford to keep living in the area that had called home for so many years.

“It was like being in an avalanche happening in slow motion,” Asha explains of the financial situation that she and her family found themselves in just a few months ago. Her husband experienced a back injury many years ago which rendered him unable to work, and he does not qualify for disability. Her daughter, who just graduated from college in India and moved back to the U.S. to live with her parents, is also struggling to find employment in a challenging job market for new grads. Asha was receiving unemployment and continuing to look for work when both she and her husband suffered health issues, which saddled them with medical debt.

Asha was always an exemplary employee, and before being let go of her previous job, she received several awards from her work for outstanding performance and sales. After she was laid off, she found herself struggling to find another job in the banking industry, despite her years of experience. Asha feels her age was held against her in many situations, and she became discouraged and very depressed.

“There were nights where I lay awake until 3 in the morning, going over in my head bills that were due and trying to figure out how we were going to make it through to the next month,” Asha recalls. Then, for the first time in their lives, she and her husband were late paying their rent. Having no family to turn to for assistance and having exhausted their resources, a friend mentioned that they should visit Samaritan House to look for help.

Asha came to Samaritan House reaching for a lifeline to get them through a troubled time. “The first time I met with my case manager, Julio, I was going through the worst time in my life,” Asha explains. “During our first meeting, Julio talked to me and put me at ease. I was no longer filled with dread, and I found myself feeling hopeful for the first time in months.” After Julio evaluated her case and assessed her income and expenses, Asha was given rental assistance and vouchers for Samaritan House’s food pantry for the next two months to help stabilize her family’s financial situation.

She and her husband also gave up their car several years ago to cut costs, but this left Asha relying on public transportation to get to and from job interviews. Unable to afford this expense, her case manager was also able to provide Asha with bus passes, which Asha said was invaluable in helping her find her current job.

Things are much brighter now for Asha, and she is proud to report that she received a job offer and began working as a customer service representative at a local bank in April. She and her husband continue to pay-off medical debt and look for ways to improve their financial situation, but she talks of feeling far more optimistic about their future and their ability to stay in the area, which they have called home for so long.

Asha feels an undying gratitude for everything that Samaritan House provided her family during the most challenging time of their lives. As Asha states, more than just the tangible support from Samaritan House, the kind and supportive words and listening ear from her case manager Julio touched her heart and gave her hope.

In the future, Asha says she would like to be able to give back to Samaritan House by volunteering there. “I always tell people that one day I want to be able to become a major donor! I can’t thank them enough for all they did for us.” As Asha explains, “…at the time, I felt like we were surrounded by sharks. Samaritan House was the lifeboat that helped save me and my family.”

*At the request of our client, the above name has been changed in order to maintain confidentiality.

Helping families. One client at a time.

“There is no greater joy, nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life.” Mary Rose McGeady, philanthropist

In this short video created for our food service program, Samaritan House’s client service supervisor Robyn Fischer shares her insights on why our food assistance program is such an important asset to our low-income client families.

During the month of June, our client service department had over 600 client visits. Clients who visited our office we helped through the diverse range of services we offer to help eligible families. Our client service staff are trained to evaluate each individual or family to properly assess their needs, connect them with the resources they need, and help them develop a long-term plan towards self-sufficiency. Individuals in need are provided with important resources – like food and clothing vouchers, and rental assistance – and referrals to other local agencies.

It is this care and concern for each of our clients that makes Samaritan House and all our case managers such an incredible resource to our community. If you are in need of assistance, please contact us to see how we can help.

Financial empowerment classes in action

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A great picture of one of our financial empowerment clients taken last week after she opened her first credit union account!

Samaritan House is now offering one-on-one financial coaching classes to help our clients learn about ways to minimize debt, build savings, & improve credit scores. We will provide opportunities for clients (and low income staff) to obtain pro-bono, one-on-one financial coaching through Sage Financial Solutions & our in- house Financial Empowerment Coach.

Our goal is to help navigate our Samaritan House clients:

  • Feel self-empowerment & self-directed
  • Live poverty-free and equip them with financial knowledge and tools
  • Create long-term, financially responsible habits – coaching will create this foundation to coach the person not the issue
  • Empower client to build personal and financial goals while holding them accountable

This is just one of the ways Samaritan House is working to help families build their level of self-sufficiency & build brighter futures!