SAN FRANCISCO—Mayor Edwin M. Lee revealed on Friday, May 12 a $2.1 million investment to provide child care services for over 140 families in the San Francisco region that are encountering homelessness and waitlisted for child support programs. According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, the investment will expand the Accessible Child Care Expedited for the Shelter System (ACCESS) initiative, which delivers child care services for families suffering with homelessness.
San Francisco will assist all eligible children under the age of 5 on the ACCESS waitlist. Both these children and their families will receive continuity of quality care until kindergarten. The ACCESS homeless child care program was established in 2005 to assist homeless families with young children with high quality child care. The ACCESS program currently serves an average of 150 children per year.
“Families dealing with the stress of homelessness should not have to worry about the additional complications of child care,” said Mayor Lee. “We need to support families in every way possible to move them into a stable living situation, and childcare services are a part of that effort.”
The program has previously been limited to serving children under the age of three, and a waitlist of more than 140 homeless children under the age of five exists today.
“Having childcare means I am able to work,” said Jackie Evans, who is enrolled in the ACCESS program. “After I had my baby, I didn’t think I would be able to go back to my job. Then I found out about the program. Finding a childcare provider was taxing, but once I found one, it worked out perfectly.”
Unsheltered, in shelter, residing in overcrowded households, or living in SROs, are some of the families currently on the waiting list. Remaining in a nurturing quality child care setting can be a powerfully stabilizing influence for children and families experiencing homelessness of all kinds, and a key driver in breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
“Homeless and foster youth are the most vulnerable San Francisco residents and it is unconscionable that even one homeless child is on a waitlist for early childcare services,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. “During the years when my children were in preschool, paying monthly tuition was equivalent to paying an additional second rent or a mortgage. I applaud Mayor Lee for taking swift action to fund early child care for all homeless children.”
“As a parent of a young daughter, I know how challenging it can be to find affordable and quality childcare in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy. “Expanding childcare services to additional 140 homeless children will provide them and their families’ critical support for a better future.”
“This funding will make a significant impact to close the funding gap for children 0 – 5 in need of continuity of care,” said Supervisor Norman Yee, who previously passed legislation to create the Infant and Toddler Early Learning Scholarship Fund. “The focus of this funding will be on infants and toddlers which are the least supported age group in San Francisco and this investment will help the most vulnerable homeless families gain access to quality care, which is a fundamental building block for children’s educational and emotional development.”
“Every child should have a safe, enriching place to learn, grow and play,” said September Jarrett, Director of the Office of Early Care and Education. “Quality child care helps these children develop to their full potential and provides much-needed stability in their lives.”
“Quality child care and family support services are vital to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty,” said Martha Ryan, Executive Director, of Homeless Prenatal Program, which supports the expansion of the ACCESS program. “Child care is absolutely essential to give hope and opportunities to families. Without child care, how can you find housing, or get a job and earn a living to exit poverty.”
Mayor Lee has focused on eliminating family homelessness by working with Hamilton Families and philanthropic groups on the Heading Home Campaign. The initiative includes $30 million in private funds, aimed to end chronic family homelessness in San Francisco and has found housing for more than 140 families at present. San Francisco has contributed $4.5 million to the program, in addition to the $40 million it spends annually on family homelessness.