Holiday Spirit

A rendering of the new Mountain View shelter. Courtesy LifeMoves.

Posted December 24, 2020

LifeMoves assists unhoused students and their families

by Nacole Barth-Ellis

It's easy to label 2020 a year to forget, with nothing but heartbreak and hardship. But things are growing more positive with each day for Heilala and her family. She and her six family members were living in one bedroom of a friend's home. When the friend decided to sell the house, Heilala, a high school senior, and her family became homeless.

Heilala said having a roof over their heads, "a home" at Haven Family House in Menlo Park, was life-changing, especially when the family was forced to quarantine for 14 days due to COVID-19. But being homeless significantly impacted her school performance. Heilala said she didn't confide with her classmates about her living situation, but did share with her teachers and school counselors about the challenges she and her family were facing. "I struggled a lot with balancing my own needs, my family, and school. My only focus was on the fact that we were homeless. I lacked the motivation to even try at school and so I fell behind," Heilala admitted.

COVID-19 has increased anxiety among both our oldest and youngest LifeMoves clients. Moving to a remote learning format while adhering to social distance protocols has required creative solutions to ensure students are not left behind academically. Many parents are struggling with how to help their children who are learning remotely, and it's especially challenging for students who have special needs or if there is a language barrier. All LifeMoves family shelters have Children's Services Coordinators (CSCs), who are essentially case managers for the children in our shelters. Since the shelter-in-place order was mandated in March, our CSCs have been providing extra services to ensure all school-aged children in our shelters have everything they need for remote learning.

Students at all six LifeMoves family shelters have personal computers and improved internet access for remote learning. With many children from the same family often taking classes at the same time, headphones are critically important to focus on individual lessons. Common spaces at LifeMoves shelters have been repurposed to accommodate student learners on-site.

LifeMoves is one of the beneficiaries of The Almanac's Holiday Fund. Because The Almanac and its partner the Silicon Valley Community Foundation cover all the administrative costs, every dollar raised goes directly to this year's 10 nonprofit organizations. Donations to the Holiday Fund can be made at

Heilala attributes the unwavering support her family found at Haven Family House with helping her graduate from a local high school this spring, though she was sad not have been able to participate in a traditional graduation ceremony. On the advice of her CSC, Heilala is continuing her education at College of San Mateo.

She credits the encouragement she received from the CSCs and LifeMoves' student therapist for helping her persevere. "Once confused, scared and alone, I now feel more comfortable, grateful, well-supported and willing to pay it all forward," Heilala said.

LifeMoves plans to help even more families like Heilala's in 2021. A new shelter in Mountain View is slated to open later this winter and will serve 12 families and 88 individuals. The first new shelter in Santa Clara County in many years, the space will provide 10 times the number of year-round shelter beds available in Mountain View. For more information on this project, visit

LifeMoves' mission, since 1987, has been to provide interim housing and supportive services for homeless families and individuals to rapidly return to stable housing and self-sufficiency. Over the course of a year, we provide food, clothing, customized case management, and 240,000 nights of shelter all provided at no charge to our clients. On any given night, we house more than 1,200 individuals, about one-third of whom are children.

LifeMoves operates 24 shelters and service sites within San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. To learn more about LifeMoves, visit or call 650-685-5880.

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2024 Recipient Agency

Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula
Provides after-school academic support, enrichment, college and career access, and mental health programs to more than 5,000 low-income youth at 29 locations from East Palo Alto to Daly City.

Ecumenical Hunger Program
Provides emergency food, clothing, household essentials, and sometimes financial assistance to families in need, regardless of religious preference, including Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for more than 2,000 households.

Fair Oaks Community Center
The Fair Oaks Community Center provides social services to the residents of the neighborhood, including programs for seniors, immigrants, renters and the unhoused, as well as housing assistance, ESL classes and child care.

Provides shelter/housing and supportive services across 18 sites in Silicon Valley and the Peninsula. Serves thousands of homeless families and individuals annually on their path back to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.

Literacy Partners
Supports literacy programs and projects through fundraising and community awareness. Helps community members enhance their reading, writing and related skills and education to improve their economic, professional and personal wellbeing.

Ravenswood Family Health Center
Provides primary medical and preventive health care for all ages at its clinic in East Palo Alto. Of the more than 17,000 registered patients, most are low-income and uninsured and live in the ethnically diverse East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks areas.

St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room
Serves hundreds of hot meals six days a week to people in need who walk through the doors. Funded by voluntary contributions and community grants, St. Anthony's is the largest dining room for the needy between San Francisco and San Jose. It also offers take-home bags of food, as well as emergency food and clothing assistance.

Second Harvest Food Bank
Second Harvest Food Bank distributes nutritious food to low income individuals and families, leveraging every available food resource and collaborating with other organizations and people to feed the needy in the community.

Serves more than 32,000 people throughout San Mateo County, including children, young people and families, with counseling, prevention, early intervention, education, and residential programs. StarVista also provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services including a 24-hour suicide crisis hotline, an alcohol and drug helpline, and a parent support hotline.

Upward Scholars
Upward Scholars empowers low-income adults by providing them with financial support, tutoring, and other assistance so they can continue their education, get higher-paying jobs, and serve as role models and advocates for their children.

As of December 8th, 63 donors have contributed $70,542 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

9 Anonymous12,700
James Esposto*
Sandy Cold500
Melanie Austin*
Robert & Connie Loarie*
Maggie Markdasilva500
Douglas Keare & Jill Morgan2,000
Mendelsohn Family2,500
Joan Rubin100
Kathryn Stivers1,000
Bill & Nancy Ellsworth*
Stephen Martin500
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Dave & Diane Toole100
Mary Pless250
Tom & Ann Livermore500
Ken Turkowski120
Susan Kritzik & Bruce McAuley*
Laura Hofstadter & Leonard Shar750
William & Dana Starling100
Brandon Madison250
Connie & Bob Lurie1,000
Michael & Leslie Crisp*
joyce castellino500
Foody Family500
Linda Craig and Evan Hughes250
Bill Wohler462
Sidney Chen & Sandra Lee Chen*
Mark and Karen Weitzel*
Cathy and Jim Koshland150
Kurt & Sue Jaggers10,000
Kayleen Miller200
Sybille Katz*
Dennis Ruby300
Paul Welander25
Karen Perlroth*
Karen Perlroth*
Barbara and Charles Preuss500
Janet Buce Cook*
Don & Catherine Coluzzi*
Vicky Rundorff*
Paul Perret1,000
Jim & Karen Lewis*
Colleen & Geoff Tate*
Marc & Mary Ann Saunders*
Greg & Penny Gallo500
John and Shirley Reiter150
Barb Jacobson150
Lori & Dennis McBride*
John Donald and Elaine Hammond*
In Memory Of

Bill Davey1,000
Hugh D. Kennedy200
Bob Mueller100
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
In Honor Of

Nancy Stevens*