In the News

Episcopal Community Services Condemns the Grants Pass Decision

June 28, 2024

Today the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will have lasting impacts on our country’s homelessness crisis. The decision in the case of Johnson v. Grants Pass has effectively legitimized the criminalization of homelessness, thus punishing people for experiencing the most extreme levels of poverty. Episcopal Community Services (ECS) has advocated against this approach from the start; signing on to an amicus brief in opposition to this unjust and cruel policy. As both the Executive Director of ECS, and a human being, I am appalled and deeply disheartened by this decision.

Let me be clear, homelessness is not a choice. The causes of homelessness are complex and often rooted in insurmountable hardship due to systemic racism, exorbitant cost of housing, and economic inequality. Homelessness is the most extreme manifestation of poverty in American society; the experience of being unhoused is traumatic enough without being punished and criminalized with fines or incarceration for simply having nowhere safe to sleep. Furthermore, people experiencing homelessness endure significant negative impacts on their health and wellbeing. Despite knowing this, our society continues to demonize and stigmatize those we should be treating with compassionate care.  

This is unacceptable.

Our fundamental approach to service is centered around proven strategies that address homelessness holistically by providing long-term affordable housing options, paired with the wraparound supportive services which empower our participants with the resources and tools they need to end their homelessness, meet their goals, and transform their lives. 

Today’s decision undoubtedly marks a dark moment in our nation’s history, but we cannot let adversity set us back. ECS will continue to staunchly advocate for our unhoused neighbors and prioritize approaches which center humanity, dignity, and empathy.

In solidarity,

Beth Stokes

How will San Francisco care for its elderly as its population swells?

April 11, 2024

“Across the nation, older adults are slipping into homelessness at a rate only previously witnessed during the Great Depression. In California, seniors are the fastest-growing age group within the unhoused population.”

Read the full op-ed by ECS and The Curry Senior Center here.

San Francisco’s New Chief of Homelessness on How to Spend $1 Billion and Get People Housed Quickly

June 25, 2021

Shireen McSpadden took the helm last month as the director of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. McSpadden is coming to the department at a pivotal time. At last count, the city had more than 8,000 people experiencing homelessness, and experts have predicted that number could grow as a result of pandemic-related job losses.

She’s overseeing a department with a budget that’s grown more than 60% to nearly $672 million. The dramatic increase is a result of newly released funding from Proposition C, a tax on corporate revenues that voters approved in 2018, to fund new housing and services for people experiencing homelessness.

The former executive director of the Department of Disability and Aging Services, McSpadden takes over from Abigail Stewart-Kahn, who served as interim director of the department during the pandemic after former Director Jeff Kositsky stepped down.

On Thursday, McSpadden toured one of San Francisco’s newest permanent supportive housing sites, the Post Hotel, operated by Episcopal Community Services and Caritas Management Corporation. The converted hotel will provide housing for 89 adults and couples, including 18 existing tenants. Residents will pay no more than 30% of their income toward rent.

Read the full article on KQED here

Give Them Shelter

May 7, 2021

Want to solve America’s urban homeless crisis? First, you have to believe it can be fixed. Anyone who has passed by the seemingly endless rows of hard-worn tents and makeshift shelters scattered under San Francisco’s bridges, beside its freeways, and along its sidewalks has probably struggled to imagine how our nation’s homeless crisis might be solved.

In San Francisco, an estimated 8,000 men, women, and children lack a stable home at any one time. About 2,800 experience chronic, long-term homelessness. And in a city where the cost of living is vastly higher than the national average, a single unit of “supportive” housing — a safe, comfortable place to live accompanied by counseling and other services — can take up to six years to complete and cost taxpayers and/or charities upwards of $600,000.

When it’s finished, the six-story building at 833 Bryant Street (shown here in an artist’s rendering) will be San Francisco’s first 100% affordable modular housing project.

Read the full article in the Stanford Graduate School of Business here.

One Way to Get People Off the Streets: Buy Hotels

May 6, 2021

For homeless people, a place to live is life changing to a degree that almost no other intervention can provide.

SAN FRANCISCO — The inside of the van was lined with plastic. The driver was masked and ready to go. There was a seat for just one passenger.

Gregory Sanchez eyed the setup warily. Mr. Sanchez was 64 and homeless, and the van was there to ferry him from a sidewalk tent to a room where he could shelter from the pandemic. It was good news, blessed news, he said. It was also a little creepy.

Mr. Sanchez didn’t know where he was going, and the sheets of foggy plastic, which coated the seats and windows to prevent the spread of disease, made it impossible to see out the window. Riding away from his longtime home in San Francisco’s Mission District, he cycled through dark possibilities — “It felt like I was in one of those movies where they take you to an army base or something” — before the door opened in front of a boutique hotel. He stepped down from the van and walked to a curved granite reception desk where he set a bin of clothes on a luggage cart.

“I go like, ‘Is this real? Can this be real?’” he said. “And they take me to the room, and the room is beautiful.”

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

San Francisco Interfaith Winter Shelter Returns for Its 31st Year

November 19, 2019
Watch a video celebrating the San Francisco Interfaith Winter Shelter’s 30th year in 2018.

The low temperatures and wet weather of San Francisco’s winter months are dangerous for people experiencing homelessness, and particularly those who are unsheltered and vulnerable to exposure-related illnesses. Starting on November 24, 2019, Episcopal Community Services (ECS), in collaboration with partners the San Francisco Interfaith CouncilDepartment of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, and San Francisco Night Ministry will once again launch the Interfaith Winter Shelter Program. The shelter will be hosted by the congregations of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, First Unitarian Universalist Society, and by ECS at the Canon Kip Senior Center.

Now in its 31st year, the Interfaith Winter Shelter Program provides a low-barrier overnight shelter for up to 100 men experiencing homelessness, as well as dinner and breakfast cooked and served by more than 50 volunteer groups. This year, the shelter will be open from November 24, 2019 until March 28, 2020. While staying at the shelter, guests will have the option to engage with members of the San Francisco Night Ministry, who will be onsite to offer chaplaincy services, as well as ECS Problem Solvers, who take an innovative, highly personalized approach to help people experiencing homelessness find creative solutions and pathways to housing.


ECS Focuses on Healthy Aging

October 2, 2019
Ladies enjoying the annual luau held at ECS’s Canon Kip Senior Center in August.

ECS has long been one of San Francisco’s leading providers of interim and supportive housing and other services for seniors who are low-income and/or homeless (currently or formerly). In fact, this group comprises roughly one‐third of residents at ECS shelters and supportive housing sites. The Canon Kip Senior Center serves more than 1,400 seniors annually, providing a vital hub of daytime meals, case management services, and community activities for older adults.

Seniors are the fastest growing demographic among homeless populations—their number is expected to double in major cities over the next decade. That’s one reason why we’re more focused than ever on healthy aging for seniors who are homeless and/or low-income.


Adult Coordinated Entry: SF’s Gateway to Exiting Homelessness

September 5, 2019

Episcopal Community Services (ECS) operates San Francisco’s Adult Coordinated Entry (ACE) system, the gateway for people experiencing homelessness in the city to be matched with the services they need.

Through Adult Coordinated Entry, ECS helps find solutions to homelessness for clients like “Janice,” “Sean,” and their dog Prince.

ECS became the lead agency of ACE for the SF Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing in November 2018. This critical system was designed to provide a clear, standardized, citywide system to assess and prioritize the needs of people living on the streets, as well as a streamlined process to connect them to solutions to help them exit homelessness.

ACE is essential to effectively assessing and identifying the most vulnerable individuals and prioritizing them for solutions at Navigation Centers, as well as permanent supportive housing. Since ACE launched in fall of 2018, ECS and its ACE partners have assessed over 6,000 people experiencing homelessness to determine their eligibility for ACE services. The program has helped at least 543 people find housing and another 305 move off the streets and into Navigation Centers.


ECS Problem Solvers: Finding Creative, Personalized Solutions to Homelessness

August 13, 2019
ECS’s Problem Solvers help people like “Uranchimeg” (name changed for confidentiality) find personalized pathways to safe homes. In her case, they helped her reconnect with her sister and provided the resources needed for her to return to Mongolia to live with her.

By Josh Steinberger, Associate Manager of Problem Solving

Episcopal Community Services’s (ECS) Problem Solvers take an innovative, highly personalized approach to help people experiencing homelessness find creative solutions and pathways to housing. As affordable and supportive housing are available to only a limited number of persons, particularly those with the greatest need, this division of our Adult Coordinated Entry program takes an alternative approach.

Since November 2018 when the program launched, this team of more than a dozen Problem Solvers has worked closely with more than 450 people to provide a fresh look at opportunities in their specific situation to find safe homes. Of the total, 372 people have found housing.


IPS: A Proven Solution for Employment in the Fight against Homelessness

July 9, 2019

By Beth Stokes
Executive Director, Episcopal Community Services

Emery Cowan and Rick Degette, experts on Individual Placement and Support, shared lessons on how to integrate employment into homeless systems of care.

Individual Placement and Support (IPS) is an evidence-based practice designed primarily to help people with behavioral health conditions work at regular jobs of their choosing. The model has also evolved to serve others, including transition‐aged youth, veterans, justice‐involved individuals, people receiving public benefits, and, significantly, people experiencing homelessness.

In June, Episcopal Community Services was proud to host a packed discussion on IPS at Google’s office in San Francisco, where nationally recognized experts Rick DeGette and Emery Cowan shared lessons on the process of integrating employment support into homeless systems of care. Speaking to a crowd of homeless service providers from ECS, the City of San Francisco, and other organizations, they reviewed the basic principles of implementing IPS, how those principles have been applied successfully in other counties, states, and organizations, and how this process might be applied for San Francisco’s homeless population.