A Benefit to all of San Diego: Children’s First Initiative

Overnight Emergency Shelter for Women and Children

Part of the Children’s First Initiative includes the redesign of our Emergency Overnight Shelter to increase capacity, privacy, and get beds off the ground.

You’ve heard me talk about the importance of breaking the cycle of homelessness from the start. Homeless children tend to have delays in development and they suffer from anxiety, emotional distress, and toxic stress. Their unstable, under nourished and often abusive environments put them at a disadvantage right from the start, and perpetuate the cycle of homelessness.

That’s why I’m putting so much emphasis on our new Children’s First Initiative. When we work together to get homeless children (and their mothers) the help and support they need to live confident, secure and healthy lives, we all benefit.

I’ve been aggressively meeting with groups, businesses and supporters like you, to help secure funding for three important elements of this initiative.

Children's Center for Homeless kids

I’ve been waiting to see a playground for the little ones since I became CEO over 9 years ago. And this month, it became a reality!

First, we’re working to expand our new Haven of Hope Preschool to accommodate more preschoolers. Our goal is to increase the number to 30 children. Currently we have 11 children (2 – 5 years old) in our program. There is a waiting list to get in, so we plan to expand to care for even more disadvantaged youth. Part of this expansion also includes the addition of an age-appropriate playground. The original playground at San Diego Rescue Mission was designed for kids ages 6-12 and we needed funds to get it retrofitted for preschool aged kids. This is something I’ve been waiting a long time to see. In fact, I’ve been waiting to see a playground for the little ones since I became CEO over 9 years ago – and this month, thanks to the generous support of numerous donors, it became a reality! I hope you will join me at the Grand Opening of the Children’s Center this month, where you’ll have a chance to see the new play structure and take a tour of the Haven of Hope Preschool (RSVP at https://www.sdrescue.org/rsvp/)

Emergency Overnight Shelter for homeless women + children

The second part of our Children’s First Initiative is the redesign of the Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Overnight Shelter for women and children. Many nights, it is maxed out and very crowded. We see 25-40 kids there every night and for kids living on the streets, this becomes their life. Due to the current set up, there is no privacy, no place for the kids to get their homework done, and due to space issues, many of the mattresses are on the floor.

We were blessed to meet designer Nastaran T. Ghomi and the NGT Group  who have offered to redesign the entire space pro bono. This whole experience has been eye-opening. Someone out there must have been praying for this, because honestly, we didn’t even know that some of these new types of furniture and possibilities of creating space with little budget existed. Our goal is to have the newly designed Nueva Vida Haven Emergency Overnight Shelter completed by the end of the year.

women and children’s transitional housing program

The space is ready for our new women and children’s transitional housing program – we just need to secure the additional funding to staff it, and open early!

Finally, we are getting ready to open the new Transitional Housing program for women and children. We’ve been operating the Men’s Transitional Housing Program for about 9 months now, and the Women’s Transitional Housing has been up and running for one year.

It’s important to provide a feeling of “normal” for the women and children going through such transition. So, we’ve worked hard to make the new Transitional Housing space feel like home. We’ve rehabbed our entire 2nd floor for this project, added a sitting room, computer room, space for marriage and family therapy, and meal service. It’s going to be quite a unique stock of housing! The new space is ready – now we need to staff it. With the right funding, we can open before the originally scheduled September date.

I feel so blessed that our Children’s First Initiative is well on its way. Because when children feel safe, confident and secure, it benefits all of our futures.

God Bless,



Herb Johnson