From its beginnings, Building Futures was rooted in the believed that homeless women and children deserve a safe place for overnight refuge. Community volunteers opened the doors to The San Leandro Refuge for Women and Children on Christmas Eve, 1986 at St. Leander Catholic Church in San Leandro. In 1988, the organization incorporated and expanded the shelter to thirty beds, naming it the San Leandro Shelter.
Domestic violence is a primary reason that women become homeless. In 1996, Building Futures opened Sister Me Home, a small “safe house” in San Leandro and began providing homeless participants with domestic violence support services. The agency also launched its 24-hour, toll-free crisis line.
The Alameda Homeless Network invited Building Futures to operate a second shelter for homeless women and children: Alameda’s Midway Shelter. The doors to the 25-bed site opened in 2001.
In 2000, the agency was awarded a no-cost lease for property at the Alameda Point. In 2002, Bessie Coleman Court opened its doors to the first residents: women with or without children who had experienced domestic violence and homelessness.
In 2007, Building Futures became a Housing First agency. That means that all the agency’s programs and services aim to connect participants as quickly as possible, to a safe place to call home.
In response to the recession of 2007-2010, Building Futures dramatically expanded its housing programs. Our mid-county Housing Resource Center was designed to meet our county’s surge in homelessness and housing instability. Over three years, the “HRC” helped 2,000 Alameda County residents to be rapidly re-housed or prevented from becoming homeless.
In 2014, Building Futures began conducting Street Outreach to serve unsheltered people. The same year, Welcome Home San Leandro began: permanent housing and supportive services for disabled, chronically homeless San Leandro residents.
In 2016, the agency opened The Family Front Door. This collaboration between Building Futures, East Oakland Community Project, and the City of Oakland’s Human Services Department served families experiencing homelessness with a range of aid including housing. The Family Front Door helped determine best practices for Alameda County’s Coordinated Entry System.
Today, Building Futures plays a key role in our county’s Coordinated Entry System, leading three mid-county resource centers that connect participants with shelter, interim housing, rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing.
In 2021 came another big expansion of Building Futures’ Housing Program. The agency successfully advocated for emergency housing vouchers for domestic violence survivors in Alameda County. This initiative includes coordinating and training with partner agencies. The agency was also chosen to forge a parallel coordinated entry process for survivors, to ensure their need for safety is addressed.
2022 saw the opening of a new resource in Alameda County’s largest city: Building Futures’ Family Resource Center. The Oakland-based center houses the agency’s family housing programs, It’s a true one-stop shop for families experiencing homelessness!
Building Futures has come a long way from the single overnight shelter that welcomed a homeless grandmother and her grandchild on Christmas Eve, 1986. One thing that has remained constant: the love and partnership of the communities we serve. From individuals to service clubs and faith groups to the Cities of San Leandro, Alameda, and Oakland and Alameda County—it truly takes a village to build vibrant communities where everyone has a safe place to call home.