History

Family House, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency whose mission is to serve as a home away from home for the families of seriously ill children being treated at the University of California San Francisco Children’s Hospital.  All housing is provided completely free of charge, regardless of length of stay, diagnosis, family background, or income level, etc.

Family House was founded in 1981 to provide a comfortable, supportive residence for thefamilies of pediatric cancer patients. The idea of Family House germinated in the 1970s as UCSF Medical Center began pioneering pediatric cancer research and treatments. Along with the increasing success in treating pediatric cancers came an influx of young patients whose families had nowhere to stay. Many were forced to sleep on the hospital floor, in waiting room chairs, or in their cars. With cancer treatment taking weeks or even months, such situations often became severe hardships.

A small group, headed up by then-Cheif of Pediatric Clinical Oncology, Art Ablin and his wife, Debbie, founded the first Family House across the street from the hospital in 1981. With the help of San Francisco's Koret and McKesson Foundations, Family House has acquired both the original building on Irving Street and a second building on 10th Avenue.


Parents bring children to UCSF from all over the country and all over the world without means to pay for the high price of a hotel room in San Francisco during their child’s prolonged treatment lasting weeks or months.  Family House facilities have a total of 37 bedrooms with 110 beds, which are frequently filled to capacity.  The monthly average occupancy rate is 94%.  Without Family House, families would be sleeping on the hospital floor or in their cars.

Family House is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.  Families come from at least 50 miles away, and are referred by UCSF pediatric social workers, who assess family needs and pre-screen residents.  Those who have the greatest financial need are referred first.  UCSF Children’s Hospital approximates that two-thirds of the families who stay at Family House are low-income families.