UNION SQUARE CARES - HOMELESS SERVICES
The City and County of San Francisco prioritizes services for the homeless in many ways: through supportive housing units, increased medical respite beds, comprehensive services that include substance abuse and mental health treatment, and innovative programs like the City’s Navigation Center. Union Square Cares is a community building campaign by the Union Square Foundation that provides compassionate and humane outreach services to individuals experiencing homelessness by contracting with local nonprofits to provide workforce development opportunities, a pathway to housing, and strategies to connect people with long lost friends and family members.
Meet the Union Square Downtown Streets Team
We’re here to work together towards ending homelessness. But when facing such a deeply-embedded societal problem, knowing the first step can be difficult. However, in consultations with our homeless folks, they've let us know the first step can be simple acknowledgment. We can start by trying to eliminate the social hesitation around acknowledging homeless people.
This is why we are inviting everyone to come say hi to our Team Members, folks who are volunteering to clean up our San Francisco community, as they collaborate with our Staff to find employment, housing and an end to homelessness as the status quo.
Through peer-to-peer outreach, formerly homeless individuals and other volunteers head out onto the streets and alleys around the Union Square area and provide a friendly face to reach out to those in need. Volunteers start by asking simple questions such as:
What is your name?
Where are you from?
How long have you been homeless?
Is there a family member or friend you haven't seen in a while that you need help re-connecting with?
Once the conversation develops, volunteers then ask if they can record a short video of the homeless individual asking their long lost loved ones for help. Finally, volunteers take all the data provided and create a ‘Miracle Message’ in order to search for relatives and friends online using social media.
Since launching in Union Square on October 2018:
110 interactions have taken place between volunteers and homeless individuals
23 messages have been recorded
15 messages have been successfully delivered to friends and relatives
7 reunions have occurred
Miracle Messages Success: Wayne's Story
Volunteers met a homeless individual, Wayne, at the Powell Street BART station near Union Square. He requested help to get in touch with his mother and sister, with whom had hadn't spoken in 16 years. The volunteers were able to get through to Wayne's niece after discovering that Wayne’s mother had sadly passed away. Upon receiving a message, Wayne’s family drove up to San Francisco to meet Wayne and they have since been meeting regularly. The family is working together to help find Wayne a long-term housing option. This past holiday season, Wayne celebrated with his family, the first time that the family had all been together for the holidays in 20 years.
Follow up on the incredible story in a recent CNN interview!