A Home Away from Homelessness

In July 1994, founder Jeanie Kortum created A Home Away from Homelessness in partnership with the National Park Service. Home Away from Homelessness would become both a site of direct, multi-faceted service to homeless youth and a groundbreaking advocacy program that worked with the community, politicians and the school district to ameliorate the problems faced by thousands of Bay Area youth. A Home Away seeks to radically alter the trajectory of children's lives by providing safe and supportive environments that foster their strengths, creativity and abilities. Since the beginning, A Home Away has enriched the lives of hundreds of children and youth impacted by homelessness, providing emotional, social, recreational and educational support. The multi-faceted programs create supportive environments in which homeless youth can attain their full potential, live healthy lives, and break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.  

The story of a Home Away from Homelessness began with a little girl named Crystal. She lived on one of the meanest streets in San Francisco, her mom a prostitute addicted to heroin. I made friends with her mom and my first husband, Dugald Stermer and I eventually adopted Crystal. It was my first exposure to homelessness and it galvanized me into doing more. I approached the Superintendent of the National Park Service, Brian O’Neill, and asked him if one of the sweet cottages out by the ocean could be made available for homeless children. He immediately said yes and that very afternoon I picked out a little house. That one house eventually grew into four “homes”, two in Upper Fort Mason in San Francisco, two in Fort Cronkite, five separate program arms and hundreds of kids.
— Jeanie Kortum


Jeanie’s philanthropic work has been acknowledged by many notable honors, among them the Jefferson Award, the San Francisco Foundation's Community Award, the Commission on Women Making History Award, the Espiritu Award from the Isabel Allende Foundation, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Francisco Urban Research AssociationFor more information, please visit the Founder's Page of the Home Away from Homelessness site.


In addition to the initial Beach House Program, Jeanie established a 24-hour hotline and the children who were on the streets called day and night. Hearing their raw stories of physical and sexual abuse galvanized Jeanie to create even more homes, more programs. She established Family Drop-In for families with small children to relax, celebrate birthday parties, make meals, be together as families. Next, funded by California Endowment, Jeanie established a mentorship program for homeless children, then, based on that success, she led a programming expansion that included a pioneering after-school program for middle school students located in former officers' quarters in Fort Mason, San Francisco. In concert with the SF Foundation, Jeanie, her staff and volunteers put on the first-ever educational summit for homeless children at Grace Cathedral, that kicked off an effort to bring the city into compliance with the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Funded by a Charles Schwab grant, Jeanie led a team that worked with the school district and other nonprofits to create the Homeless Children Educational Service Plan. Eventually, Home Away encompassed four buildings and a budget that nudged up to $1 million a year.