​Stefan Baumgartner serves with Mennonite Voluntary Service at the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco.

By Stefan Baumgartner
Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP) is a pretty amazing place to work. The clients we see want the best for themselves and their children, and make the first step toward a better life for their family by taking a literal step through our doors. There are a myriad of programs available where clients receive services and support for needs such as housing information, wellness care, prenatal classes, computer access, interview and resume help, access to diapers, food and clothing, as well as more intense case management for people experiencing domestic violence, open Child Protective Services cases, substance abuse, homelessness, and mental health issues.

 

 

​With all of these hard issues to deal with, clients are welcomed into HPP in a warm and caring manner, and are treated with respect and adoration. Everyone on staff has such passion for their work and the vision of HPP. For many, this passion comes from their gratitude for the support they received when first coming to HPP as a client. More than half the staff are former clients that have gone through the Community Health Worker Training program and have moved up to be case managers and service providers. I am truly humbled every day by my co-workers' and clients' stories of perseverance, hope and strength, as well as their continued humility and service.

Through MVS, my position at HPP is a housing intern, and I do a variety tasks. One bigger responsibility is to lead an English housing workshop twice a week for clients and community members. I, along with a couple other co-facilitators, go through a 20-minute presentation informing the attendees about various housing options in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Housing can be very hard to come by, especially in the Bay Area, but we are able to give them tips and crucial information and resources for them to succeed. The rest of the workshop is devoted to actually completing applications and sending them out to the properties. Right now, I am also updating our list of open housing options by calling property managers all over the Bay Area, inquiring about income requirements, rent, if their waitlist is open, and how to receive applications. The learning curve is pretty steep, but I am taking it in stride.

We also have a Deposit Assistance Program where clients who have found a place and meet the requirements for eligibility receive the deposit they need in order to move into the unit. The program does not operate like a loan system, but instead, HPP is promised to get the deposit back if or when the client decides to move out. There are specific documents we need in order to use the program, and I have been learning how to put all of that in the right order. I also enter the checks into the database system. HPP partners with another organization called Season of Sharing, which supplements our help if a deposit is more expensive. Every two weeks, I go to a review board where we check possible missing documents and inconsistencies in order to approve or not approve the case.

There are other tasks that I do as well, but these are the hats I wear when directly doing housing work. I hope this paints a picture of what I am doing on the day-to-day. Yes, I have already learned so much about housing, but I am seeing that the clients' stories and experiences are teaching me even more. Blessings!

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​Stefan Baumgartner is an MVS volunteer serving at the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco.  This is a post from his blog.

 

 

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