Clinic Provides Prenatal Services to Low-Income Families – The Potrero View

July 2015

Clinic Provides Prenatal Services to Low-Income Families

Kira Findling

In a perfect world every medical clinic would offer clients the comprehensive services they need to thrive. Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP) manages to do just that. Over the past twenty-six years HPP has emerged as a vital resource for families living in poverty.

Located on the corner of 18th Street and Potrero Avenue, HPP was founded in 1989 to provide prenatal care to poor and homeless pregnant women. Today, HPP helps families overcome an array of challenges, including access to housing, domestic violence, and unemployment, with the goal of breaking the cycle of childhood poverty. Families with at least one child seventeen years or younger can utilize HPPs free services. More than 4,000 households use its programs annually, including approximately 200 new families each month.

My staff is incredibly committed; many come from the program themselves, said HPPs founder and executive director Martha Ryan. At least half of the programs 80 staff members are former clients.

Housing is our biggest challenge, Ryan reported. Through a grant from the San Francisco Housing Authority, HPP offers Section 8 housing vouchers to clients. However, Ryan lamented that the chits are practically useless in San Francisco due to a lack of affordable housing where the vouchers could be used. As a result, voucher recipients typically seek homes in other counties. HPP lends a hand by covering initial rental deposits, while weekly workshops assist with obstacles, such as poor credit and difficult landlords. Housing is their journey to stability; they have hope if they have housing.

Many of HPPs clients are battling substance abuse; pre-treatment counseling and referrals are provided. We give them the support they need so they dont lose hope, said Ryan.

According to Ryan, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness. An array of services, including individual therapy and clinical consultations, are available to help those experiencing abuse. Additionally, HPP offers job search assistance, English-as-a-Second-Language classes, childcare, emergency support for basic needs, and case management services, in which a staffmember ensures that all needed services are offered to a client.

Though HPP has broadened its scope over the years, it hasnt forgotten its roots. More than 3,500 babies have been born to the organizations clients since 1992. That number is steadily growing. Pregnant mothers can attend prenatal classes in either English or Spanish, receive support from doulas, and participate in yoga and community-building activities. These programs insure that more than 90 percent of participants infants are born drug-free and of normal weight. Post-partum services are available to promote development of healthy parent-child relationships.

As an added bonus, four times a year HPP hosts a baby shower for its clients, during which expectant mothers receive a brand new diaper bag filled with infant essentials. The gifts are funded by agency donors or private donations. [The new diaper bags] help mothers feel valued, Ryan beamed.

HPPs success depends on the help of partner agencies and community members, as well as grants and donations. Individuals can assist the organization by volunteering time or giving money.

HPP is the angel on 18th and Potrero, said client Maresa.

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