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Joana, Marisol, and Vivian: A Family's Journey to Stability

Joana, her mother Marisol, and her sister Vivian lived at Compass Clara House from 2019 to 2021. After years of teamwork and growth, they were able to find stable housing. Read about their journey to find a safe and stable home.


My name is Joana, and I was born in Mexico. I've been living in San Francisco since I was 5 years old. Growing up, it was just me, my mom and my younger sister. We moved a lot, and the three of us always shared a bed due to the lack of space. When I was a teenager, my mom had a severe infection on her back that required surgery, leaving her unable to work. Because she is undocumented, she couldn’t apply for unemployment benefits and used up all her savings while she was recovering. We couldn’t pay the rent and eventually received an eviction notice.

We ended up sleeping in various family shelters, our car, and even in hotels. I would wake up early to go to school and we’d shower at the gym. My mom always went to Compass Family Services to apply for housing. After two years on a waitlist, we got a call from Compass Clara House, and our lives changed.

At Clara House, we each set goals and worked hard to achieve them. They provided after-school care for kids and helped my sister with her homework. They assisted me with applying to community college and covered some of the school expenses. They also offered my mom job training, helping her improve her skills. During the pandemic, my mom took Special Education workshops to better support my sister Vivian, who has autism. She also volunteered at an agency called Support for Families, running a virtual support group in Spanish.

Clara House required us to maintain a monthly calendar and apply for housing regularly to ensure our stay was temporary. They trained us on navigating the DAHLIA San Francisco housing portal and other websites for housing applications, providing the support we needed every step of the way. My mom and I became stronger as a family unit and I feel extremely blessed to have been able to overcome this together.

I earned my Associate's degree and then transferred to SF State to get my Bachelor's in Sociology. Now, I work as an Outreach Specialist, collaborating with Community-Based Organizations and families in San Francisco. Having been on the other side, I truly relate to the families I help, and I understand their struggles. I'm extremely grateful for Compass and the incredible passion and services they offer to families fighting to survive.

Thanks to Clara House, we were able to turn our lives around and move towards a stable future.


During all those months at Clara House, my daughters and I learned good daily habits and we also participated in many events. My favorite were the Christmas events, because it allowed me to cherish my daughters and give them a stable place during the holidays. We were supported with food, clothes, and gift cards. But more than anything it was the support from the Compass staff, Jane and Barbara, who were always available from early morning Monday to late night Sunday, that made the difference. The building also had security personnel, making it feel like  a safe place for us. 

When we came to Clara House, we had our dog, Juliette, with us. I couldn’t abandon her, she was my emotional support dog and also a part of our family. We were thrilled that Compass was able to accommodate and let us bring her. Juliette recently passed away, in September 2023. Thanks to Clara House, Juliette was also able to have emotional stability and a stable home. 

Fortunately, by applying so many times in the housing portal, we won a housing lottery and moved into a stable place.  I am very grateful for having been in transitional housing. Without the time at Clara House, more than anything, I would not have been able to achieve all the learning I did in the education workshops. I was able to take workshops and take care of my daughters in a way I had not been able to do before. 

Now I work for the Support for Families of Children with Disabilities Agency as a Family Resource Specialist. I am very grateful for having been at Clara House, and I hope my experience serves other families. Clara House really supports and helps families, they help unite families and help families focus on and achieve their goals so that when one leaves, they can continue stronger outside.


My favorite memory at Clara House was going out with the other children to the beach house and having a place to sleep without having to wake up early. I have good memories there and I am happy that they helped us find a home.


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