Compass families are the heart and soul of the organization. Their experiences, grit and determination in the face of hardship strengthens the driving force of the Compass organization. Compass Family Services helps homeless families build the lives that they always dreamed of by providing stability and structure to their lives.
Families that graduate from Compass continue to feel a sense of belonging with the Compass community. In the process of stabilizing their lives, these families build strong and deep relationships with the Compass staff. Alumni almost always return as volunteers or donors to help out other families going through rough times.
Damilla and Anthony
Damilla and Anthony both grew up in East Oakland and had very challenging lives in their family homes. Anthony’s family lost their housing soon after his 18th birthday. He made a decision no teenager should have to make; he left his family so they could get into a family shelter. He wasn’t allowed in the shelter because of his age and they didn’t want to go without him.
Damilla was charged with helping to raise her younger siblings. She managed taking on the role of parent for many years while sacrificing her own childhood in the process.
Then they found each other...
Starting when Max was six years old, he remembers the beginning of many home visits from social workers and his private therapy sessions. At age 12, he and his mother entered Compass Family Shelter after their home was condemned. For the first time, he was able to talk and listen to children who were also struggling.
"Finally I could speak to kids my age.. find some empathy with other youths who’d also been through bad situations and feel empathy for them in return."
By the age of 15, Max was living with friends and mostly on his own. However, he continued to attend therapy sessions, which he recognized as a place where he could express himself, get positive feedback, and plan for his future. Max developed a strong connection with his long-time therapist and Compass Clinical Director, Susan Reider. When it came time for Max to plan for college, Susan helped him navigate his options and the many challenges. Art had always been a big part of his therapy with Susan and his passion for drawing was leading him toward art school.
"Every week she would calmly listen to me, read stories, and watch me draw. Her non-judgmental companionship allowed me to grow in those sessions… I discovered the person I am."
Susan helped Max apply for scholarships and he was accepted to the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. But Max couldn’t afford the move, the tuition and the living expenses. Susan connected Max with funding from Children of Shelters and he was finally set to pursue his dreams.
After graduating, Max launched a very successful career in television animation, working for Disney, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, and most recently as the design lead on the Emmy Award-winning show Rick and Morty.
“A lot of people believe family is something you inherit. One of my core principals is that family is something you build. From the communities that support you, and from the communities you end up supporting in the end.”
– Max Pauson
Cuc, Avis, and Kelly
Cuc was diagnosed with cancer and forced to quit her job due to her illness. Throughout her two year fight, Cuc stayed at a medical hotel, while Avis and Kelly moved between several shelters. When Shelter beds were unavailable, Avis and Kelly lived in their car. When Avis lost his job in 2020 during the pandemic, the family had nowhere left to turn. Then they found Compass, and a home in Clara House.
While working two jobs, Avis, with the help of the Clara House Savings Program, began to save money for the family. Eventually, the family found a house to call their own and graduated from the Clara House Program in 2022. Even after graduation, they remained a part of the community, receiving Aftercare Case Management in order to ensure they remain stably housed and have access to all of the resources to properly meet their needs.
Janelle, Darin, and Andre
Janelle entered the Compass San Francisco home during a turbulent time in her life. She had just been laid off and could not afford housing for her family. Compass housing provided Janelle the support she needed to rebuild her life. Today, Janelle works for the city and county of San Francisco as a senior eligibility worker. Her sons are doing well at school and are now able to indulge in hobbies such as skateboarding.
The Ngeussan Family
After graduating from Compass, the Ngeussan family moved to Silver springs, Maryland. Jean works at the University research company as a senior technical advisor. He is leading several projects in different countries. Elisabeth took up a consulting job in global health and education. Their son Esdras plans to attend Maryland institute college of arts. Their daughter is in high school and plans to become a doctor. Compass housing provided the Ngeussan's the support they need to build the lives they always dreamed of.
“While we were homeless, Compass Clara House allowed us to focus on finding our way and evolve, rather than struggle to survive. We were encouraged to share our concerns and joy. Thank you.”
- The Ngeussan family