Founded in 1981, the mission of Family House is to serve as a home away from home for families of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses by providing physical comfort and emotional support free from financial concerns. While children undergoing bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments are our most common guests, we also accommodate those facing other life-threatening childhood illnesses such as fetal surgery, transplants, and cardiac patients when space is available. The average length a family stays with us is six weeks for oncology patients and eight weeks for non-oncology patients, although families may stay at Family House for as long as their child is receiving treatment. Family House is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
We recently completed our five-year, $42 million campaign to build The Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House at Mission Bay, which will support the new UCSF Children's Hospital. The new facility opened in March and more than doubles our current housing capabilities. At The Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House, we expect to serve 4,000 families annually (minimum of 12,000 individuals).
Because all families come to Family House from at least 50 miles outside of San Francisco, and often from much further, living away from home for weeks or months often necessitates additional assistance. In addition to shelter, Family House helps families with basic needs and supplies including: kitchen staples for the community pantry for families who may not be able to afford groceries; grocery cards so they can purchase their own groceries; gas cards to help cover the cost of driving back and forth from San Francisco to their home, where spouses and other children often remain; phone cards; warm clothing for families that arrive unprepared for San Francisco’s “cold” summers; and prescriptions. To help families maintain their spirits throughout their difficult stay, we also host birthday parties for the children; BBQ’s in the summertime; and holiday dinners for families staying with us in November and December. We also provide music, art, and pet therapy. In addition, when possible, Family House assists families with larger and more difficult expenses, such as funeral costs. All amenities and services are provided at no charge to our families. These seemingly small amenities help alleviate some of the additional burdens for families struggling with the costs of living in an expensive and unfamiliar city while maintaining a life and household back home. In addition, many families face the challenge of lost income, as frequently one parent must take a leave from work to stay with their child for weeks or months at a time during treatment.
All families are referred to Family House by UCSF’s pediatric social workers who pre-screen patient families by diagnosis (cancer is first); distance of residence from San Francisco (they must be from at least 50 miles away); and ability to pay for accommodations out of pocket. Seventy-five percent of our families are low-income, which both Family House and the Children’s Hospital determine based on Medi-Cal eligibility. On average, 75% of families served each year have children being treated for cancer.
Without Family House, many families have told us that they would be living in their car or in a homeless shelter while their child is receiving chemotherapy or other potentially life-saving treatment. We are honored to provide these families with safe, comfortable, and convenient housing during this difficult time.