Explore Our History

From our founding 50 years ago, to our many expansions over the years, to the recent COVID 19 crisis, we invite you to explore a timeline of some of the most defining moments and achievements in Raphael House’s history.

The Beginning (1971-1976)
The Beginning (1971-1976)
  • In 1971, Raphael House opened its doors for temporarily homeless women and mothers with children at our original site at Gough and McAllister (pictured). At the time, the shelter was operated by the Holy Order of MANS, a nonprofit, non-sectarian Christian service organization.
  • Capacity is limited to 17 people per night, and the building is rented from the City Redevelopment Agency for $1.00 per year, for a period of five years.
In Search of a Larger Facility
In Search of a Larger Facility
  • As the city of San Francisco prepares to redevelop the Gough and McAllister block, Mrs. Ella Rigney is appointed to find a larger facility in order to continue to serve homeless families.
  • Raphael House moves into the former Golden Gate Hospital building on Sutter Street and renovation plans are made.
A Newly Renovated Raphael House
A Newly Renovated Raphael House
  • Mrs. Ella Rigney and a work crew from the Holy Order of MANS renovate the Golden Gate Hospital transforming it to the new Raphael House. The newly renovated Raphael House opened during the week of Thanksgiving 1977, becoming the only family shelter in San Francisco. The new shelter will serve entire families, with private bedrooms and a capacity of 35 beds. 
  • Mrs. Ella Rigney serves as Raphael House’s first Executive Director.
Brother Juniper’s Bread Box Opens
Brother Juniper’s Bread Box Opens
  • In April, Brother Juniper’s Bread Box opens on the first floor of Raphael House, featuring generous sandwiches on home-baked bread, homemade hearty soups and pastries. Proceeds from the restaurant support Raphael House’s shelter and programs.
  • The city of San Francisco donated $50,000 to help to bring the building up to code. This is one of few times Raphael House accepts government funding in its entire history. 
Serving More Families
Serving More Families
  • Our Residential Shelter capacity increases from 35 to 50 beds, allowing Raphael House to serve more families each year.
  • Construction of the roof deck solarium begins.
Raphael House Week in San Francisco
Raphael House Week in San Francisco
  • Mayor Dianne Feinstein declares the week of Thanksgiving to be Raphael House Week in San Francisco.
  • The Rooftop Garden play area is completed. Families now have a beautiful and safe environment to enjoy the outdoors.
Follow-Up Program Introduced
Follow-Up Program Introduced

Raphael House expands its services to include the Follow-Up Program, known today as our Bridge Program. Elizabeth Willis, Director of Family Services, conducts weekly parenting classes, home visits, counseling, and family activities in order to maintain contact with past residents and provide an ongoing support system.

Welcoming a New Executive Director
Welcoming a New Executive Director
  • Sr. Elizabeth Fries (left) becomes Executive Director. In a letter from our annual report that year, Fries said, “It is our desire and our hope that for those children who have passed through the door of Raphael House, their experience here will always remain with them, a shining memory in their hearts.”
  • At 90 years old, Mrs. Ella Rigney (right) also continues to live and work at Raphael House as Director Emeritus.
  • During this year, the Raphael House Thrift Store on Fillmore Street opens.
Annual Children’s Art Show Initiated
Annual Children’s Art Show Initiated
  • Mrs. Ella Rigney, age 94, initiates an Annual Children’s Art Show at Raphael House, which is now held every year. 
  • Elizabeth Fries moves to the Portland, Oregon Raphael House and Br. Mark Story becomes Executive Director.
A New Volunteer Program
A New Volunteer Program

Raphael House reaches out to the community, instituting a Volunteer Program with a full time volunteer coordinator. By the end of the year, more than 200 volunteers have given their talent and time throughout Raphael House.