A girl in a Halloween costume at a Children of Shelters event

a brighter todayfor our children

Over 5,000 San Francisco children live in or depend on family transitional shelters.

Children of Shelters is committed to providing these young minds with the transformative educational, enrichment and nutritional support that every child deserves.

Our Mission

Empowering San Francisco children experiencing homelessness

Children of Shelters seeks to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness currently experienced by over 5,000 San Francisco youth. Through our educational, experiential and nutritional initiatives, and our best-in-class network of partners, we deliver comprehensive resources and services that bridge critical would-be gaps in the development of these children, offering them joy, happiness and a future unbound by the complications of homelessness.

Homeless children are twice as likely as other children to be in poor health.

The Story

A team of individuals committed to helping children in need throughout San Francisco

Children of Shelters was founded in 1995 by philanthropists Summer Tompkins Walker and the late Lois Pavlow with the goal of providing opportunities for enrichment and education to the growing number of San Francisco children living in or supported by family transitional shelters. Over the years, through the contributions of generous individuals and organizations, COS has provided support to thousands of the city's children. Today, the organization is managed by a robust and actively engaged board of directors commited to the COS mission.

Meet Our Team



Children of Shelters annually by the numbers


Children Served


Summer Campers


Served By Shadow Therapists


Birthday Bunchers


Cooking Class Participants


Music Class Participants


Art Therapy Participants


Supported By COS College Scholarship Program

How your donations can make a difference

  • $10,000

    Underwrites a portion of the Shadow Teachers' salaries that help ensure the educational success of our children.

  • $5,000

    Supports the revamp of up to 3 community spaces in a family shelter, helping to make these spaces more welcoming & comfortable.

  • $2,000

    Provides six months of cooking and nutrition classes at a shelter.

  • $1,000

    Ensures that 4 homeless children will have the opportunity to experience summer camp.

  • $500

    Provides a month of art or music classes for 30 children at one of our partner shelters.

  • $250

    Provides turkey and pies for our annual Holiday Shelter Dinner.

  • $100

    Helps the Birthday Bunch program to deliver a cake, decorations and a gift to celebrate each child.

Art therapy, buying a school picture, or cooking with family can be grounding during a time of transition.


Please use the form below to inquire about volunteer opportunities and ways you or your business can help the Children of Shelters cause.