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37 Grove Street: We Got Here Just In Time

We held the ribbon cutting ceremony for our new service hub for Compass families at 37 Grove Street on September 20, 2018. Launching a $30M comprehensive campaign to fund the purchase and remodel of this new site as well as fund three years of Compass programming was a necessary leap of faith. It was a well-thought-out leap in the knowledge that owning our building would ensure Compass Family Services would escape the City’s rental market to serve families experiencing homelessness, and families who are at risk, well into the future.

Following the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, 37 Grove Street immediately became a distri­bution hub for emergency support to families. The location was central to our families living in and around the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods as well as easily accessible for large deliveries of groceries and supplies, and for staff to load up for distribution to Compass families housed throughout the Bay Area.

Our previous location at 995 Market Street would not have allowed for hundreds of families each week lining up to receive support services. No other Compass locations could have accommodated such efforts. We are extremely fortunate to have secured 37 Grove Street in time to be ready for 2020’s pandemic challenges.

As we approach our final year of Housing. Support. Hope: The Campaign for the San Francisco Family, we are – at the time of this publication – at 93% of our goal. Compass’ ability to act in this time of extreme crisis is due to the many donors who listened to our plan and invested in our work and our families – in all our community.

Compass Family Services is like a great ship, first docked at the Ferry Building in 1914 and now stationed across from City Hall. We carry hopes, struggles, victories, and losses of the past, and those to come. We have lasted on staff determination and commitment to serving families, exemplary donors, and dedicated board members. We are a ship fighting for the privilege of obsolescence, to be out of commission.

Planning for the Recovery Ahead

When the pandemic crisis positioned itself on top of the housing crisis in San Francisco, we knew it would be a major setback for Compass families. We also knew we would see an increase in the number of families seeking services. We are diligent about collecting as much data as possible on the effects of the pandemic on Compass families. One thing that our data makes very clear – there is a growing back rent crisis looming. Early identified debt from Compass families totaled more than $500,000. We are already providing back rent relief and this past holiday season, adapted our annual Adopt-a-Family holiday project to include back rent support as an option for donors. Donors responded with more than $300,000 in back-rent support.

The economic impact of the pandemic on our families is dramatic, of course, and so is the emotional toll. Families are experiencing an increase in domestic violence and abuse. Many families are doubled or tripled up in small apartments to avoid being outside with their children. Overcrowding along with the stresses of losing their income and childcare, and with the threat of losing their housing, is seeding long-term mental health issues. Our school-aged children are falling further behind and early childhood development is threatened for the youngest in our client families.

Over 90% of Compass families are people of color and it’s critical to serving our families that we understand the current moment, including the racial reckoning our nation is dealing with post-George Floyd. Our work today includes battling the systemic racism and inequality that has plagued our nation for centuries. We look to the challenges ahead with determination and as fierce advocates for our families and our community. We also look to you and those we choose to represent us in government to join us in the good trouble and good work that needs to be done.

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