By Oscar Perry Abello.
Just a leisurely walk down Market Street from San Francisco’s gleaming Financial District is the 29-story Fox Plaza building, home to one of the city’s most important technology hubs. But whatever life-changing apps may or may not be under development within its walls, this hub’s importance comes from its primary users: the homeless or nearly homeless families from the surrounding neighborhood and elsewhere in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Its existence is thanks to a community benefits agreement the city negotiated with social media company Twitter.
Compass Family Services operates the bulk of programming for homeless families in Fox Plaza’s first-floor technology hub, known as NeighborNest. The 4,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2015, saw 3,500 visitors in its first year. They accessed 920 hours of programming (mostly but not all from Compass) and 800 hours of free childcare. Founded in 1914, Compass’ client base is 42 percent African-American, 40 percent Hispanic or Latino, 8 percent white, 5 percent Asian, 3 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 2 percent Native American.
“Before NeighborNest, each of our six programs had their own computer labs,” says Stacy Webb, communications and corporate relations manager for Compass. “We weren’t able to run a good centralized computer lab for our families. Now parents from all our programs can come in, hand their children off directly to a childcare specialist, and get to work on different classes or workshops.”
A glass wall separates the computer lab area from the main childcare area. The design was intentional, so parents in the lab can easily glance over to check on their children.