But then, First Place is always there for families without homes

It’s quieter these days at First Place Family Center. Early in the COVID-19 emergency, families enrolled in Night Shelter were assigned 24-7 to the First Place Annex, which is better equipped for sheltering in place and homeschooling.

Wyatt with skateboard

Four families remain parked alongside First Place through St. Vinnie’s Overnight Parking Program. By day, one family at a time, they use the restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. Between uses, the facilities are thoroughly sanitized by staff members.

One young man is staying in the First Place lot with his dad. He is friendly, with kind eyes, a broad smile, and a skateboard nearly half his height. Prior to entering the Overnight Parking Program, he said, he and his dad spent a lot of time driving around and sleeping at distant campgrounds.

Now he passes the time on his tablet, reading, and honing his skateboard skills on the First Place entry ramp, which features three switchbacks between the door and sidewalk.

First Place building

First Place Family Center remains a beacon for unhoused families with children 18 and younger

“I’m getting pretty good at this,” he proclaimed.

He’s glad to be at First Place and has memorized most of the important rules. His dad needs to keep him in his line of sight, trash must be picked up, and one other… He scratches his head.

In addition to limited access to facilities, First Place families can pick up pre-packaged meals, hygiene kits, and diapers; and they can access the services of assistants like Housing Navigator Kevin Douglas to work on barriers to housing, to locate stable, affordable places, and find ways to keep whatever housing they may already have.


First place receptionist

Receptionist Carmen Cervantes is often the first person families encounter inside First Place Family Center.

As for the skateboarder, he noticed his dad walk around the building so he scrambled to catch up. It’s important to stay in Dad’s line of sight.