San Francisco is the heart of Silicon Valley with a high density of billionaires and jobs with above-average salaries. Who needs your help in a place like this?
Many people who come to us have jobs. But they have jobs where the salary is not enough to pay their rent because the cost of living is so high. We take in about 950 people a night – half of them are children. We’re not the kind of organization that gives homeless people a hot meal and a place to sleep and that’s it. We have really intensive programs and case managers that help people develop skills to be able to live independently again. We also support them to find homes that they can afford. LifeMoves is a large non-profit organization that helps homeless families and individuals. We have approximately 285 permanent employees and over 12,000 volunteers. We also have thousands of supporters. We work simultaneously at 23 different locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
How do you reach these people who need help?
On the one hand, we make contact with people who actually live unprotected in tent camps or alone on the streets. On the other hand, we have our homeless prevention service, which helps people find a new home, for example by providing expert advice directly on site. And finally, we have our own shelters where people can stay for four to eight months, depending on their situation, and are provided with various things such as meals, guidance or clothing.
In TV documentaries you see people living in cars.
People living in their cars are a big problem in the San Francisco Bay Area. People live in their RVs, in their cars and park on the street, which disturbs the people who live in the neighborhoods. We have made contracts with the towns and cities so that we can get large parking lots where we can run the programs. People can park there safely during the night and get support from our case managers. Our goal is that at some point they will be able to get out of their cars and come with us to a shelter.
Many people who come to us have jobs. But their salary is not high enough to secure them to pay the rent.
Is there something about your work that particularly touches you?
Definitely our mission and the people we help are very important. But for me personally and in my position, it is the colleagues who touch me the most, because they are at the front line and they do the really hard work. Their commitment is simply incredible for me and touches me very deeply.
What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is to find good personnel. We are in the Bay Area, where high-tech companies pay ten times what we can do. So it’s always a big challenge to find highly qualified employees if they could also work for Facebook or Google. We even attract a lot of people who are burned out of the high-tech world and want to do something more meaningful, to give something back.