Established in 1971, Raphael House began as an emergency shelter for single mothers and their children. A group of committed volunteers rented a location from the city to serve the families. However, they quickly outgrew the limited space, and Mrs. Ella Rigney, the founder, was charged with finding a larger facility. 

Relocating to the former Golden Gate Hospital at 1065 Sutter Street, the group worked hard to renovate the space to accommodate 51 beds in 17 bedrooms. Opening Thanksgiving week, 1977, Raphael House became the first homeless shelter for families in Northern California. Since its inception, Raphael House has provided over 20,000 parents and children personalized family-centered solutions to build brighter, independent futures.

In 1991, Raphael House became incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Shortly after, the staff formulated a comprehensive AfterCare program designed to provide ongoing services to former resident families who had moved on to stable housing—today known as our Bridge Program. 

In direct response to a growing need in the community, Raphael House now provides 31 private bedrooms for parents and children in its Residential Shelter. Over time, Raphael House also greatly expanded its educational and supportive programming for families. In addition to shelter, these services include family-centered case management, career development, family wellness support, comprehensive children’s services, and aftercare support through the Bridge Program.

Throughout its history, Raphael House has received several prestigious management awards, including the John R. May Award from the San Francisco Foundation, the Management Center’s Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, and the Sara Lee Leadership Award.

Explore a Timeline of Our History