There are hundreds of families experiencing homelessness in San Diego County. The latest data available, from the 2020 Point in Time Count, found 381 families experiencing homelessness, with the majority living in shelters. The Father Joe’s Villages Therapeutic Childcare and Family Services Center provides resources to help homeless children and their parents. In 2021, the program provided critical child care and support to 150 parents, and the majority were mothers.

The program offers after-school care, behavioral health, child development, and family literacy programs and parenting support.

Ruth Bruland, chief program officer of Father Joe’s Villages, and Michelle McElroy, a mother of six and a former client of the Therapeutic Childcare program, joined KPBS Midday Edition to talk about how the program has helped families experiencing homelessness.

“All of the services are similar to what a regular licensed child care center would do, because we are licensed by the County of San Diego,” Bruland said. “But then we also are paying attention to those areas where there might be those developmental delays, and we work with psychologists to provide the appropriate assessments for the kids, and we really want to zero in on those things that might get in the way of that child having equal footing, equal chance of success in school and really just in life.”

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McElroy said the program helped her and her family.

“It was amazing. Every day my children would go there after school. They had tutoring, they had places to put in the work, they had computers, they just had everything that a child needed,” McElroy said.

McElroy said the program also helped her get back on her feet.

“I got my culinary certificate from there, which I love because I learned how to cook some amazing food. The program there was awesome. They had great hands-on training every day,” McElroy said. “I honestly believe that a lot of my success today basically is because of St. Vincent de Paul. They helped me get my life together. I’ve been sober for 10 years now. They helped me get my driver’s license. I got my education through St. Vincent de Paul, my GED. They trained me in culinary, and I was able to get work. All of us are really thankful for everything that they had to offer us.”

Bruland said there was currently a waitlist to get into the program, but she advises that families visit the St. Vincent de Paul Village Joan Kroc Center to talk with staff, get more information and see how the program works. She said family beds were available at the Golden Hall shelter, and people can call the San Diego Housing Commission or 211 to get information about that shelter.