New Family House Opens at Mission Bay

New Building Doubles Capacity of Temporary Housing for Families of Children's Hospital Patients

By Kate Vidinsky

Lhamo unpacks food in a kitchen at the Family House's new home in Mission Bay
Lhamo unpacks food shortly after moving into Family House's new home in Mission Bay on May 9. Her daughter is a patient at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco. Photo by Noah Berger

Family House – the nonprofit organization that provides free housing to families whose children are being treated for serious illnesses at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco – has opened the doors to its new home in Mission Bay.

More than a decade ago, UC San Francisco announced plans to move its children’s hospital from its Parnassus Heights location to its state-of-the-art Mission Bay campus. Not long after, Family House decided that it, too, would need to relocate.

After all, being near the hospital is both a great strength of Family House and of paramount importance to the families who stay there, explained Alexandra Morgan, Family House’s chief executive officer.  

A new building means Family House has more than double its capacity, from 107 people a night to 240, while creating a beautiful, home-like environment for families going through the most trying time of their lives.

Families Move In

Now, a year after the grand opening of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital at Mission Bay, the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House at Mission Bay is complete, and families moved into the new facility this week.

The exterior of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House at Mission Bay is shown in a photograph
The exterior of the Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House at Mission Bay. Photo by Noah Berger

“It is hard to put into words just how excited we are to have Family House open at Mission Bay,” said Kim Scurr, executive director of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco. “Family House is a refuge and safe haven for families, and the calming environment and incredibly caring staff give parents a supportive place to go home after a long day or night at the hospital.”

The new, 92,000-square-foot Family House building was made possible by donors who gave more than $42 million. The philanthropy made the building a reality for the nonprofit, which is its own entity that is financially independent of UCSF.

According to Scurr, one great benefit of having Family House only a block-and-a-half away is that the hospital can discharge patients and invite them to stay an extra day or two with their families while they become accustomed to what they will need to take care of when back home, such as giving their child medications.

Her Child’s First Home

The back-and-forth journey between Family House’s previous location in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood and the children’s hospital had become commonplace for Christina Littlesunday and her daughter Joy, who has been treated at UCSF since Joy was only a newborn. Three weeks after her birth in June 2013, the Page, Ariz.-based family learned from a routine blood-screening test that Joy had a life-threatening immune disorder.

Joy Littlesunday runs around in Family House's new Mission Bay facility
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco patient Joy Littlesunday plays in Family House's new Mission Bay facility. Photo by Noah Berger

At the recommendation of their local pediatrician, Christina brought Joy to UCSF, where she spent the majority of her first two years being treated at the Parnassus Heights location of the children’s hospital before it moved to Mission Bay. Christina and other family members lived at Family House, while Joy waited for and recovered from a bone marrow transplant. Joy is now doing well and returns to San Francisco every three months for follow-up care, during which she and her family stay at Family House.

“When we leave Arizona and come to San Francisco, we tell Joy we are going to her first home, and I think she really has that sense,” Littlesunday said. “Family House is not just where we stayed while Joy was getting better. It truly is a home. It’s where Joy took her first steps.”

Family-Centered Care with All the Amenities

Four-year-old Rosalinda Talamantes and her uncle move belongings into Family House's new Mission Bay facility
Rosalinda Talamantes, 4, and her uncle move belongings into Family House's new Mission Bay facility on May 9. Photo by Noah Berger

Named for benefactors Nancy and Stephen Grand, the new Mission Bay building includes 80 bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom, as well as a fitness center, office space and a 9,000-square-foot garden. It also offers designated cooking, crafting, meditation and story time spaces, and a teen room, sponsored by the Bay Area-based rock band Train.

“I’m so thrilled that families are now able to walk back and forth to the hospital and get to their child easily, and then come back to comfortable facilities where they can live as normal a life as possible,” Morgan said. “It really is spectacular, and the staff is absolutely giddy with excitement. This is an achievement that everyone associated with Family House can be proud of.”