Look behind the curtain…and the name

When you read the name Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP), it’s easy to assume what population this nonprofit serves and make a good guess what kind of services it provides. That assumption changed drastically for me and several of my colleagues when I extend the invitation for a tour of their facility.

Five years ago, the now 22-year-old HPP purchased and occupied its current home, a big grey building with a nondescript facade on the corner of 18th and Potrero streets in San Francisco. Once we were past the front desk, we were struck by the friendly and open physical interior of this surprisingly modern and inviting space that once upon a time was fixed up by a now evaporated dot-com. Visual awe gave way, however, to a deep sense of amazement and frequent mouthing of “wow” at one another as the extraordinary array of services provided by HPP was described by our tour leaders,Sharon Bechtol, the volunteer coordinator and donations manager, and Chad Christensen, founder of SFSmiles, a partner charity.

We learned about an extraordinary array of classes and services – prenatal classes, parenting classes (including those for single mothers and fathers), child care, support and assistance overcoming substance abuse, tax services, computer training, a wellness program, meditation classes, social services and art classes – all offered at no charge. (See? That’s way more than just prenatal!)

On top these services, we heard about the paid and volunteer staff’s passion for fulfilling HPP’s mission. It was infectious. I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy inside. “By seizing the motivational opportunity created by pregnancy and parenthood, HPP joins with families to help them recognize their strengths and trust in their capacity to transform their lives.”

But all this fascinating stuff led to the real motivation behind the tour: to learn about donation opportunities for our clients – many of whom are in a state of transition themselves – to help transform the lives of strangers who are also in the throes of big life changes.

I have found that when I am able to share firsthand knowledge about what a nonprofit organization does with the donations it receives, my clients are more willing and ready to let possessions go. I believe this will be the case when they learn that donations will go directly to the individuals (homeless or recently homeless clients in the case of HPP) and the other charities that SFSmiles supports.

Here’s what we learned:
homeless prenatal program logoHomeless Prenatal Program accepts donations of clothing for infants to adults, books, new pots and pans, new towels and bedding, unused diapers (open packages okay), car seats, strollers, rocking chairs and more.

sfsmiles logSFSmiles is hands-down a favorite new find! Chad will pick up donations from private homes or storage units for free. He and his team will distribute the items to the impressive roster of charities that his organization supports. Got too many stacks of National Geographics or other magazines languishing in your garage? He’ll take ‘em! At the moment, SFSmiles serves San Francisco with select forays to Marin and the near East Bay. (Please click the logos above to read exactly what items are needed and can be donated.)

And the clincher: how do these two organizations work together? SFSmiles collects furniture donations for clients whom HPP has assisted with finding housing. Working with HPP’s in-house case managers, potential donations that can be used to furnish and outfit a small apartment or studio will be matched to current clients’ needs. SFSmiles will pick up such furniture donations and deliver them directly to HPP clients’ homes. This makes for a win-win-win situation!

To learn more about these organizations and how you can get involved, please visit homelessprenatal.org and sfsmiles.org.

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