The Fuller Center for Housing of San Diego was created in 2008 and within months had already partnered with the City of San Diego, Urban Corps of San Diego and Community Housing Works to rehab homes in City Heights that were in desperate need of both interior and exterior repair. The renovation was a huge success, and the Fuller Center of San Diego continues its work with Community Housing Works Partnership throughout San Diego County.
Responding to the unique needs of our community, we also created and operationalized a “5-Year Experiment” we termed, “4 Families,” with an overall goal being to give each of the 4 families a true HAND UP in becoming a fully functioning family again. We located 4 homes; repaired each home; identified 4 families in need of housing; and for 5 years, gave them a true “hand up.” We continually repaired and upgraded their homes as we could afford. We helped the adults prepare for and secure jobs and apply for and get credit to buy essential things such as food, phones and transportation. We followed their children’s school progress including speaking with their school’s principals, teachers, counselors, and coaches. We aligned with Churches and reached out to the Community to help us “serve” each family doing projects such pouring concrete for a patio or planting grass. Our annual “Delivering Christmas” included delivering a real Christmas tree with lighting and decorations to each home; we asked each family member for their “Christmas Wish List” that the local community and Church’s fulfilled; invitations to attend a local Church of their choice were personalized. These sorts of things were not only joyous and heartwarming tasks but contributed to building trusting relationships for all within the family’s community which was an important motivation for continued success.
This experiment proved fruitful: by end of the 5-year project we could measure that children stayed in school and experienced school success (including for one family, a son heading to junior college—the first of his family to ever go to college). Other measures of success were adults staying employed and being invited by their employers to receive training opportunities for skill advancement, or being their being able to pay their rent without fail. Other indicators were neighbors incorporating the family into theirs—such as asking them to bring in the mail or trash cans if out of town or offering “ride-sharing” to school when needed, to invitations to neighborhood picnics. In short, the “4 Families” and their neighbors were willing to help one another out. And the constant through it all, was that each family had—in Millard Fuller’s words, “a decent place to live,” where family success was possible.
I’ve been with the Fuller Center since Founding days, and can say that of the many ways we’ve provided help and support in our Community, the “4 Families” experiment was one of the most productive and heartwarming projects ever. — Bettie Youngs, Executive Director
Financial support: Donate to this covenant partner: Make checks payable to Fuller Center for Housing of San Diego, P.O.Box 2810 Del Mar, CA 92014.