In 2012, the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit organization committed to advocating for the vitality and growth of downtown San Diego, created the Family Reunification Program. The program is designed to reconnect people experiencing homelessness with their loved ones across the country, enabling them to rebuild the much-needed support systems crucial to ending the cycle of homelessness.
Since then, more than 3,000 participants have been helped and the program has proved to be one of the most successful efforts to reduce homelessness in downtown. Sharp HealthCare is honored to serve as a sponsor of the program, which recently received the 2019 Vic Kops Humanitarian Award during the 57th Annual Alonzo Awards, honoring the people, projects and places that positively impact San Diego’s urban core.
“The Downtown San Diego Partnership presents many ways to contribute, but when we found out about the Family Reunification Program, it seemed to be the most appropriate fit,” says Sara Steinhoffer, vice president of government relations at Sharp HealthCare. “Not only are real connections made with people who want to improve their lives, but it also furthers connections beyond our community, as people are actually reunited with family and friends.”
According to Steinhoffer, it was important to Sharp that the program was done the right way, with safeguards in place so that individuals being reunited with their families are set up for success. In fact, of the thousands of individuals who were reunited with loved ones, more than 70% remain housed.
“There are many ways to explain how this is important to Sharp and to our community, particularly when we know the challenges faced by the homeless, including reduced life expectancy,” Steinhoffer says. “This program makes a critical difference for some. It truly exemplifies the compassionate, patient-and family-centered approach Sharp delivers.”
Lana Harrison, communications manager for the Downtown San Diego Partnership, says that addressing homelessness isn’t up to just one agency or entity to solve; it is a community issue that requires diverse involvement and collaboration.
“Funding partners such as Sharp are what sustain this program and enable our team to help people take the next step in their journey to stable housing,” Harrison says. “In addition to the three vans they have donated, recent Sharp funding has resulted in more than 50 direct referrals that have allowed program participants to be discharged from the hospital with a concrete housing plan.”
Furthermore, additional funding has led to the hiring of new program staff members who have been connecting with people experiencing homelessness in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. The organization has also increased its outreach with an added focus on local housing coordination.
“This program is one of the very special ways in which we collaborate with our community to address a societal ill in a way that respects the dignity of others,” Steinhoffer says. “This is the type of contribution that makes Sharp a great place to work and receive care, and also a great member of the community.”
Learn more about Sharp’s Community Benefit programs, services and outreach efforts.