Hummingbird Valencia Opens in San Francisco’s Mission District

On Tuesday, May 18th, Hummingbird Valencia opened its doors to San Francisco adult residents experiencing homelessness, mental health crises and substance use disorders. Based on the success of its predecessor, Hummingbird Potrero, the Valencia respite center will be a vital resource to help the City’s most vulnerable on a path to a better future.

                “PRC’s Hummingbird centers are an essential step in San Francisco’s spectrum of behavioral health and substance use services. We provide a proven, cost-effective alternative to Emergency Room care,” said Brett Andrews, CEO of PRC. “PRC is grateful to partner with the Mayor and Supervisor Mandelman, the SF Department of Public Health, and our community partners Tipping Point and the Salvation Army to expand the availability of these critical services to our most vulnerable citizens at a time of such profound need.”           

An estimated 8,000 – 10,000 people experience homelessness in San Francisco on any given night, and thousands more live with mental struggles, many times in combination with substance addiction. The pandemic we’ve all experienced over the past fourteen months has certainly increased the severity of the situation, shining a spotlight on the ever-growing need for support systems and sustainable solutions. PRC is on the front lines taking the initiative to increase the number of these resources, making them available to the city’s most vulnerable populations.

At the inaugural Hummingbird Potrero, located on the Zuckerberg SFGH campus and operated by PRC; nonviolent individuals experiencing acute mental distress are assessed and cared for by the experienced counselors and staff instead of being hospitalized. This approach allows a person in distress to engage and stabilize in a home like environment, surrounded by professionals that are looking at, and beyond the moment of each individual situation. We know that mental distress is the result of a combination of life experiences and traumas, and simply addressing the symptoms will not provide a full or lasting recovery. The first step is to help comfort each individual and work to gain their trust, only then can the true work begin. As staff learn about each person and their unique situation, they also teach them how to communicate their personal needs, and instill a desire for self-advocacy.  Each seemingly small step builds more trust allowing for care plans to develop, and for the individuals to accept, and more importantly, believe that additional help is available if they choose to take it.  

Hummingbird services are guided by lived experiences and many of our programs employ graduates from the same development and recovery programs that they now support. When proof of a successful system is provided in the form of someone that’s been through it, and is now here to help others through it, those shared experiences build powerful connections that last a lifetime. They also provide an example and a desire for individuals take ownership of their future.   

Clients are referred to Hummingbird Valencia from urgent care providers or by street teams including the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), the City’s new Street Crisis Response Team, and the Department of Public Health’s Street Medicine and Comprehensive Crisis Services. Once at a hummingbird site, individuals have access to food, showers, clothing, laundry facilities, counseling services, and a place to rest. The hummingbird program provides connections to a wide range of services including detox and residential programs, transportation to medical services, self-care and job training opportunities, assistance with obtaining an ID, or help reconnecting individuals with their family.

Individuals are free to leave and many do, but many also return and give it another go. This was the inspiration of one hummingbird client when they were asked to participate in naming the respite center. “The hummingbird’s presence may not last long, but while it is here, it does transformative and lasting work.”  The road to recovery is rarely a once and done experience and we understand that it’s likely going to take a few tries including a few steps back as part of the progress. It’s important however to celebrate the wins, eliminate the stigma from the slip ups, and encourage each person to try again no matter how many times it takes. Judgement free support is what clients receive while at a hummingbird center and this stays true while clients access any of PRC’s extended programs.  

Since 2017 the Hummingbird program at Zuckerberg SFGH has served more than 1,000 overnight clients and more than 12,000 day guest visits. The freestanding Hummingbird Valencia location will reach its full capacity of 30 overnight beds and an additional 20 daytime guest capacity once all pandemic related restrictions are removed.

The average length of stay at a hummingbird center ranges from a couple of nights to a couple of weeks, Couples are able to access services at the facility together, and day time services are also available for those who need access.  

“I’m proud that District 8 will be home to the first-ever community-based Hummingbird Navigation Center,” said Supervisor Mandelman. “The Valencia location will provide shelter, supportive services, and a path to stability and wellness for unhoused people struggling with mental illness and substance use. These beds represent one more step toward meeting the City’s acute need for exits from the streets, emergency rooms and jail for unhoused people with behavioral health needs. The Hummingbird model is a proven concept that can make a real difference in the crisis on our streets, and we need many more of them.”

Hummingbird Valencia Rear Entrance | Photo Credit Heidi Alletzhauser