Home Newsletters

The Rainbow House

Sophia Project serves children and families who are at risk of recurring homelessness. Our core work is to ensure that the children are nurtured and that their physical, developmental and educational needs are met while providing their mothers with time, guidance and support to acquire new abilities to meet their children's needs and stabilize their families.

Statement of Need
It is well documented that the first 5 years of life is the chief formative period for the whole of later life. Healthy early childhood development is the essential foundation for the emergence of a strong, caring capable adult. The families at Sophia Project have experienced homelessness, poverty and often violence and abuse. By providing early intervention and a nurturing stable environment these young and vulnerable children will have a solid opportunity of developing into healthy adolescents and adults.
Studies have shown that homelessness tends to recur in families who have not become part of a community. By creating community with our families, and often serving as an extended family, children and mothers have a safe and nurturing space to develop the skills they need to stabilize. We have found that deep healing is possible through intensive services, and a wise approach to education provided within a thoughtful, caring live-in community. We have also learned that from the time a child and family join Sophia Project, the family's transformation takes a minimum of five years, the first half in the intensive daily program, the second half in various kinds of support.

Program Description
Beginning in 1999 Sophia Project provided early childhood education based on Waldorf principles, infant and toddler care, extended hours of childcare, a small before- and after-school program, a weekend respite program, Saturday school, parenting education and family support. All services were provided by live-in staff and interns, creating a safe home-like environment and providing the possibility of 24-hour availability to meet the urgent needs of families.

Change of Focus
By July 2010 all of our children and families completed their time in the intensive daily programs. Beginning in August 2010 we changed the focus from daily programs and family support to focus exclusively on family support.

Our first priority is to protect the gains made by the children and mothers we serve. We expanded our family support services to keep stable the 117 children/48 families we currently serve. The expanded family support has four components:

1. Serving as an extended family: this component is and will continue to be an important part of every child's and every mother's relationship with Sophia Project. It includes parenting education, respite care, workshop and activity days, individual meetings, guidance, referrals, home visits, emotional support, outings, and celebration of the important occasions in the lives of the children and families.

2. Rainy day assistance: this component of the program assists with the occasional utility, health or food bill or with, for example, the purchase of shoes or a school uniform; in other words the occasional shortfall.

3. Leap forward: this component funds larger one-time costs that will allow the child or the family to take a significant step forward. These costs include: housing security deposits, tuition assistance for those children who have completed our programs and need help to become eligible for future academic scholarships, durable furniture for new stable housing for our families, and adult education opportunities.

4. Loan fund: This component allows our families to access short-term no-interest loans for personal or family emergencies. Typical loans are approximately $300 and they are paid back in 3 to 6 months. The total loan fund is $5,000.

We have repeatedly seen that this intense way of working - a wise and healing education within a loving community - brings about deep transformation. The future impact of some capacities that are gained can be hard to measure. The value of other capacities is in what they prevent in later life, also difficult to measure. But there are many that are tangible results now. These include the following:

- The children who have been in the early childhood program are all participating well in school. Their teachers regularly remark upon the children's social skills and the harmony they bring to their respective classrooms.

- All the families who have been through the program remain housed.

- We received an award for excellence in neighborhood renewal.

- We are frequently recommended as a resource for other agencies to learn about ' best practices ' for the population of children we serve.

- There are many instances of the children and families acting as agents of change in their own environments.

Contact Us!
As of July 20th, 2010 please use our new contact information:
Sophia Project
210 Prospect Drive
San Rafael, CA 94901
Phone: 510.268.3916
Email: sophiaproject@sophiaproject.org

A word about photographs: in consultation with the families, Sophia Project has decided not to use photographs of the children or families in our literature. Instead we will use artistic renderings. In order to ensure that the children and families will continue to feel this is a safe place to heal and grow without risk of shame or exposure to the neighborhood or larger community, now or years from now, we are happy to honor their wish for privacy.

Credits and Thanks

Original artwork by Sharry Phelan Wright

Sophia Project is:
a 501(c)(3) public charity
A Camphill Association of North America Affiliate