About Neighborhood House Association

Neighborhood House Association History

Developing children, families and future leaders of our communities through empowerment, education and wellness from our house to yours.

Leading the way in developing confident, self-sufficient, healthy families and communities.

Integrity, Service, Excellence and Employees


Neighborhood House Association (NHA) was established in 1914 as a non-profit 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization. NHA began as a settlement house assisting immigrants in transitioning into the San Diego Community. Nearly one hundred years later, the agency has distinguished itself as a cutting-edge comprehensive human service provider.


Neighborhood House Association logoIn 1888, wealthy, white university club women (officially called the College Women’s Club) started the settlement house to assist Mexican, Portuguese, Italian, and Chinese immigrants in settling in the community. During this time, two social workers were commissioned to conduct the Pathfinder Survey, the earliest known survey to identify the needs of the San Diego community. The small settlement house was staffed by a husband and wife team of resident social workers. From its inception, the agency set a standard of excellence by responding to community needs. In 1914, two schools merged to become an industrial school to teach disadvantaged youngsters and keep them off the streets. One of the schools was under the direction of the First Baptist Church and the other was run under the sponsorship of San Diego Normal School’s Women’s Club. The merging of these two schools was the beginning of what became Neighborhood House Association.

NHA was incorporated in 1923 under the direction of Helen and Mary Marston, Emma Way, W. Templeton Johnson, Rebecca Halley and Mrs. John L. Bacon. The Articles of Incorporation written in 1923 state, “The purpose of this organization is to maintain a social settlement in which residents and other workers shall seek to perform the services of a good neighbor to people of the district to promote their physical and moral welfare, and especially to promote the welfare of children and young people, by means of industrial work, educational and medical assistance and directed recreation; to understand the Mexicans and any other group, to interpret their needs to the community and contribute to an appreciation of their culture, and in all the work of the Society to develop independence and leadership, thus helping people of the neighborhood to help themselves.”


With an annual operating budget of over $84 million and more than 750 employees, NHA is the largest multi-purpose human services organization in San Diego County, serving thousands of residents (children, families, seniors and youth) each year. The agency has 12 key program areas offered at more than 120 locations throughout San Diego County. These programs include an array of services designed to meet the cultural, social, health and emergency daily living needs of underserved residents. Program service areas are focused on: Health, Youth, Child Development, Seniors, Mental Health, Nutrition, HIV/AIDS Services, Housing Counseling and Emergency Assistance.


  • In 1888, the College Women’s Club started the “settlement house” to assist Mexican, Portuguese, Italian and Chinese immigrants with settling in the community.


  • NHA began in 1914, when the First Baptist Church school merged with San Diego Normal School Women’s Club.


  • In 1920, NHA helped start the Community Chest now known as the United Way of San Diego County.
  • In 1923, NHA was incorporated by Helen and Mary Marston, Emma Way, W. Templeton Johnson, Rebecca Halley, and Mrs. John L. Bacon.


  • NHA became the first Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) certified housing counseling agency in San Diego County
  • NHA received the Head Start Program
  • 41st Street Center opened
  • NHA became the first grantee for Head Start Programs in San Diego County
  • San Diego Food Bank (SDFB) was established


  • Adult Day Health Care was initiated


  • NHA began HIV/AIDS services program
  • NHA opened its administrative headquarters on Copley Drive
  • The Connection Program was established


  • Head Start enrollment exceeded 10,000
  • Community computer lab opened at 41st Street Center
  • NHA purchased the new SDFB site on Distribution Way
  • NHA hosted its 90th Anniversary Celebration at the U.S. Grant Hotel
  • August 2006, the Board of Directors named Rudolph A. Johnson, III as the President and CEO of Neighborhood House Association. Johnson succeeded the late Dr. Howard Carey, who served the agency for more than 34 years.