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A family reunites at Cameo House’s Mothers’ Day gathering.

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This Mother’s Day, program participants and staff of CJCJ’s Cameo House gathered for a special celebration to honor the strength of our community and families. As a program that serves homeless, justice-involved women, many of whom have children, Mother’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate residents’ progress on their parenting journeys. Cameo House staff work side-by-side with participants to help them grow as mothers, reconnect with their children, and, in some cases, regain parental rights. This past year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Cameo House served as an essential safe haven for many families who otherwise would have been separated by incarceration or left without stable housing.

This year’s celebration took on special significance as it marked the first major holiday gathering since staff and residents learned of devastating cuts to the Cameo House budget. Effective July 1st, San Francisco’s Adult Probation Department will end the program’s contract. We are working diligently to find a contracting agency and funds to preserve the program. With broad support from the city and justice stakeholders, CJCJ is committed to maintaining the program. We refuse to close our doors and continue to support women as they work towards their mental health, substance use treatment, employment, education, and parenting goals.

Staff members worked hard to make this Mother’s Day special for program participants. They cooked a delicious dinner, decorated the dining area, and assembled gifts for each woman. The women received beautiful roses and cards along with care packages that included makeup kits and hair accessories. As music played and families sat down for a socially distanced meal, participants were able to enjoy a sense of normalcy and could truly savor the time with one another. 

This holiday is a reminder of Cameo House’s profound impacts on participants, their families, and the broader San Francisco community. Mother’s Day is always an important holiday at Cameo House, but this year’s celebration was extra special,” explained Cameo House Director Rebecca Jackson. It was an opportunity to gather safely as an entire community – as a home. We had the chance to reflect on the strength of our community and, after the challenges of this past year, appreciate being together. We now know how fragile our sustainability can be.”

One participant reflected on the significance of the holiday to her, explaining that she had expected to give birth to her new baby in jail. She was grateful to Cameo House because it allowed her to be home and present with her child. This is a familiar story at Cameo House where 70 percent of participants have avoided incarceration and wrenching family separation because the program offers a trusted alternative to jail or prison.

The day was also meaningful for a new program participant who is in the midst of reunifying with her two children. Because she is living within Cameo House’s safe and stable environment, she and her children are permitted to have unsupervised visits at the house. One such visit occurred on Mother’s Day. After enjoying the delicious meal, all three stepped away to sit on the backyard swing set, talk, and just be together. After a difficult period of separation, this reunification has restored hope for the whole family. 

Cameo House prides itself on providing long-term services that give women the time and support they need to find childcare, employment, and housing. Because program participants can remain at Cameo House for up to two years, the women and children build deep relationships with staff and other families at the house. These connections endure long after a participant leaves the program. For example, at this year’s Mother’s Day gathering, one recent graduate returned to Cameo House to enjoy the festivities with her child. She took time to express her gratitude for the program and the ways its staff and community have helped her achieve stability. She is part of the 77 percent of Cameo House participants who find employment, the 72 percent who return to education, and the 78 percent who move into stable housing upon graduating. Cameo House strives to stay connected with all of its graduates, providing ongoing resources and support as they navigate the next phase in their lives. 

Throughout the pandemic and amid the recent budget crisis, Cameo House has remained a refuge for vulnerable women and their children. Its positive effects reach across generations by interrupting cycles of incarceration and homelessness. Despite the challenges of this past year, Mother’s Day was a chance for the program’s women, children, and staff to gather and celebrate the strength of their community. With your help, Cameo House can continue to support justice-involved women as they build close, nurturing relationships with their children. Complete this form to register your support for Cameo House and receive updates on the campaign. Please also consider making a tax-deductible contribution today.