I joined the governing board of Family Supportive Housing sixteen years ago when it was still named San Jose Family Shelter. I was attracted to it because of the word "Family". It soon became an important part of my life. Having retired from a 25 year career as a fundraiser for Stanford University, I felt that I could be helpful in finding sources of funding to assist what, at that time, was a new and strugling enterprise. Through these several years, (during twelve of which my wife also volunteered her services...as the organization's bookkeeper)I've seen hundreds of families, many of which were guided by two parents and many by only one, brought back to a life of self sufficiency. There's nothing quite as moving as hearing a young child say something like, "This is the nicest room I've ever slept in," or upon returning from the summer camp to which we send several dozen children each year, hearing a youngster (who never before had experienced anything like it) say "What a great week it was. When I grow up I'm gong to be a camp counsellor!" It's been a most rewarding 16 years; a challenge to do well while doing good. I most enthusiastically recommend serving such a cause for anyone who is at all interested in helping give unfortunate people, especially children, a hand up.
This truly unique agency provides a service vital to the protection of families at risk. When a family looses their housing unless they live in the car there are no shelters that will take the whole family in. This is the service that Family Supportive housing offers with warm and tender care for each member of the family.
In 2005, after having worked in the television news business in various parts of the country for more than 20 years, I decided to take some time off from the "professional" world. My focus turned to raising my three children and doing some community service work. Over the years, I had done many stories on homelessness and the agencies that served the homeless population. Having worked in the San Jose area for 14 years, I had run across The San Jose Family Shelter in the course of news coverage and was very impressed with it's mission. Family Supportive Housing, as the umbrella organization is called, operates services that not only provide temporary shelter for homeless families with children, but works from the very beginning to guide those families to self sufficiency. Before I left the news business, I had already met some of the families who sought help there. I began donating money and other items I thought people could use. But it was not until I ran into Executive Director Trish Crowder at a wholesale grocery store one day in the summer of 2006 that I really began to learn what a truly valuable operation FSH is. Trish asked me outright if I would consider serving on their board of directors and I was flattered and intrigued. I got to know a few other board members and a little more about what the organization did and I became a true devotee. For the past two years, I have worked to raise the organization's visibility in the Silicon Valley, helped to raise desperately needed funds for operating, and taken part in an ambitious and exciting capital project to build a "green" replacement shelter to better serve a critical segment of our population: families in need. It has been an honor to be involved with such a giving organization with a truly dedicated staff and board of directors.
Family Supportive Housing addresses the core needs of homeless families. They recognize the importance and value of keeping the family together and the need to educate to break the chain of homelessness. The programs they offer to develop the domestic skills needed to become self sufficient is the greatest insurance policy we as a community can give the children in these homeless families. The shelter also walks the talk by creating and enforcing it's own budget and skills as an organization. It is the most efficiently run non-profit I have been involved with or aware of. The first time I toured the shelter and entered the daycare center all the children were sleeping except one. She was a little girl being held by the daycare worker. She was only about two years old. She looked at me and stared wondering who this man was. She looked frighten at first but as she continued to stare at me, a smile came over her face. The look was as if she felt like someone had given her hope. This is the moment for me, when I decide I would fight for this little girl and others like her so that they will eventually rise out of homelessness and stand self sufficient once again. I received ten times the reward from the shelter from my involvement. They can and do change a child's life. The most precious possession a child has is not his/ her home, toys, clothes or any other material thing, but it is their family. The shelter fights to keep the family together.
At San Jose Family Shelter run by Family Supportive Housing, I have seen first-hand the faces of the children and their mother, father or both as they are met by their case manager for a check-in. There is a sense of relief by the parents that they have someone who cares about their unique situation; someone who is there to guide their steps on the road to self-sufficiency. The children may seem puzzled, but seem to lack fear in this place of safety--and hope.
I call Family Supportive Housing "the little train that could" because Trish Crowder, Executive Director has created a warm and welcoming environment as an oasis in the middle of an industrial area. Holidays are celebrated, nutritious and good smelling food is provided and you receive a smile from the front desk when you walk in. FSH will be moving to a new home in a residential neighborhood in the near future, but the oasis in the industrial neighborhood has been the launching place for many successful new beginnings filled with hope and I for one will not forget how one person created more than shelter.