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In 1971, Mrs. Ella Rigney founded the Raphael House as an emergency shelter for single mothers and their children. With a small group of committed volunteers, space was rented from the city to serve the families. After being quickly outgrown, Mrs. Rigney began looking for a larger facility. The house was relocated to the former Golden Gate Hospital which was renovated to accommodate 17 bedrooms and 51 beds. On Thanksgiving 1977, the Raphael House opened as the first homeless shelter for families in Northern California.

Since its opening, the Raphael House has served over 20,000 families and expanded to 70 beds in 23 bedrooms. The House also expanded its supportive and educational programming for children, as well as designed a program to provide ongoing services to former residents who had moved on to stable housing. As family homelessness continues to increase annually, the Raphael House has embarked on a plan to expand services over the next three years to reach an additional 200 families– 500 families in whole.

The Raphael House works to help families achieve long-term stable housing and financial independence through a supportive process that emphasizes the importance of personal dignity and strong families. The approach taken is highly interactive and customizes services for each individual and family. Through providing a collaborative process, the Raphael House believes each individual will recognize the abilities they possess to achieve their success.  

Through offering ongoing, comprehensive assistance, the Raphael House helps to empower more than 300 families each year with the resources, personalized solutions, and support network they need to build brighter futures.

Here are a few of the programs the Raphael House incorporates:


  • Residential Shelter Program: As a stable home-like shelter, the residential shelter program provides families with a warm and safe community where the family can work towards achieving long-term stable housing and financial independence. More than 85% of the families served have gone on to achieve long-term stable housing. Parents receive intensive case management, financial assistance, career building and job placement services, and mental health counseling, as well as educational workshops in areas such as financial literacy, parenting, and wellness. The children receive services that support healthy emotional and intellectual development that also incorporates parental support.
  • Bridge Program: The bridge program provides families with housing subsidies and assistance, mental-health counseling, K-12 academic tutoring and mentoring, educational workshops, children’s services, and social activities aimed at strengthening the family bond. 90% of the families who actively participate in the program maintain long-term housing and financial stability.
  • Children’s Program: The children’s program is used to cultivate creativity and imagination through songs, games, and activities. Alongside their parents, the program engages the heart and mind of the child in efforts to open them up to a world of exploration and experience. At least 100 children each year are served through the children’s program and more than 85% show improvements in their social and emotional behavior.
  • Academic Enrichment: The Raphael House believes that ensuring children achieve academically is an integral part of breaking the generational cycle of poverty. The House offers extensive tutoring, enrichment activities, scholarships, and mentoring for both children and teens. Out of the 100 children helped each year, 90% of the children show improved academic performance. In fact, two teens who dedicated themselves to the educational programs at the Raphael House started college last fall; one as a mechanical engineer major at UC Berkeley and the other as a commercial pilot major at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.