Current Issue - Sonoma County Task Force for the Homeless

Safe, Secure, and Affordable Housing for All
s In This Issue
News From
The Winter Front
Savings Lives
& Money, Too
Homeless From
The Inside Out
Honoring The Spirit:
2014 Spirit Awardees
An Evolving Board
Assesses Results &
Tackles Challenges
Appreciation &
How You Can Help
Preparing for
Extreme Weather
2014-15 Homeless
Resource Guide Is
Volume 17 Issue 2 Fall/Winter 2014
County Fields New Efforts To Help People Survive The Cold
By Georgia Berland
Nights are cold. The rains make a lot of us grateful – even hopeful. Those of us
living outside may have entirely different feelings. It’s time to seek warmth, shelter,
safety and survival. Being out in the weather can be dangerous, scary, even life threatening - especially if you’re sick or disabled, like two thirds of local homeless people.
Most would be deeply grateful for a place to sleep out of the cold – or at least to camp
where there was a bathroom, clean water, and no fear of assault, sweeps or harassment.
The Board of Supervisors has assured that some will find shelter this winter. Others will
be helped via outreach and services.
In August the Board approved the Ten Year Homeless Action Plan Update targeting permanent housing needs. Over 4100 homes of various types are needed to permanently house our homeless residents. We hope local housing developers will make
a dent in that ambitious, vital goal when new state housing funds become available in
The Board also allocated $250,000 to pilot an interdisciplinary Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) in Northwest Santa Rosa. They hope to engage 420 people
in services. Based on vacancies in Permanent Supportive Housing, they hope to permanently house 173 of the most vulnerable first, and place more in shelters based on
continued on page 6
By Georgia Berland
The Health Care for the Homeless Collaborative (HCHC) continues to grow, to
work toward full access to integrated care, to support the Respite and Care Transitions Programs it helped initiate, and to make progress toward a better solution for
chronically intoxicated people now crowding emergency departments yet not receiving
substance abuse treatment.
We often hear that we can’t afford to establish new services. The Serial Inebriate Program (SIP) is one case among many where we can’t afford NOT to do so. The
HCHC’s recent Cost Study shows we’re now spending over $9 Million/year in Sonoma
County on law enforcement, hospital, ambulance, treatment and jail costs for this population, not including Court costs. We can save much of that if we better coordinate and
adjust how we provide services across disciplines.
We have the stakeholder organizations at the table, have researched models, and
targeted goals and action steps. We’re exploring how to allow and support safe, direct
ambulance delivery of inebriated patients to a sobering facility rather than the ER. We
recently visited San Francisco’s Sobering Center, along with their Respite Program,
© 2014 Sonoma Co. Task
Force for the Homeless
continued on page 6
Fall/Winter 2014
The Sonoma County
Task Force
for the Homeless
is the nonprofit coalition of
public and private service
providers, community
organizations, religious
congregations, businesses
and individuals working
to end homelessness in
Sonoma County and to
assist those who have lost
their homes. We depend
heavily on our members for
direction, financial support,
and volunteer assistance.
Larry Hall
Vice Chair
Georgia Berland
Yvonne Milligan
Clara Else
Board Members
Rev. Blake Busick
Joe Dietzen
Ed Gomez
Melissa Jones
The Task Force Board
represents a
diversity of perspectives
as well as a commitment
to the efforts of the
Executive Officer
Georgia Berland
Reporter Editor
Operations Manager
Fawn Moran
Layout & Production
Program Assistant
Thomas Ells
Pat Stratford
The Dialogue section is devoted to items submitted by readers. We particularly invite personal
experiences, ideas, suggestions, and responses from homeless people, program staff, volunteers,
and the community. Please see Editorial Guidelines below for how you can contribute your thoughts.
A Personal View From The Street
My first time homeless on the streets of Portland Oregon was an awakening to the
prospect of death outside. Anger, violence and suffering was an every day condition. The
services that were available were deplorable. Long waits in long lines for every thing needed for basic survival. I moved back to my hometown Santa Rosa, California, to start over
after several tragic personal events. Not to mention three trips to the ER for life threatening
conditions. I can’t leave out suicidal ideation on speed dial.
Returning to Santa Rosa after a few years was a good first step toward repairing the
damage in my life. Mary Isaac’s Center was there for me when I most needed a kind,
compassionate hand. Being there gave me time to think about my next move. This was
my first priority - to assess what to do next. One of the staff said to me “why don’t you
go to college?” I replied, my employers sent me to 10 years of hi tech industry training, I
haven’t been in college since 1978. I would most likely fail, I whined, (in the most convincing learned helplessness fashion). He said give it a try. Two years later I had a Drug and
Alcohol Certificate, a car, and a thriving nonprofit! There was definitely a paradigm shift
from living my life from the out side in to living my life from the inside out. Mistakes were
made, tears were shed, and life moved on.
Experiencing chronic homelessness changed me forever, actually in a way you might
not predict. I am more compassionate, giving, and happy now with my homeless brothers
and sisters then when I used to stand in the Presentation Room of a 37 million dollar a year
wholesale electrical distributor configuring automation and control systems. The love and
respect I give and receive every day is more precious than diamonds in my opinion. Please
don’t count the homeless out! We are Moms and Dads, Sons and Daughters, Aunts and
Uncles, Life Partners. When we die people miss us. I am an Orphan, part of the foster care
system, the juvenile justice system, and so on. I am A Father and a Son. My son shed some
of his blood on the battlefield in “the Triangle of Death” for quite a long time. Then off to
Afghanistan for another couple of years. Don’t worry about me. I will be whatever God
tells me to be - help my son and other Veterans like him suffering from having someone trying to kill them, and having to take lives themselves. Help my brothers and sisters who are
homeless so no more of us have to die.
~ Tigre
REPORTER Editorial Guidelines:
News, personal stories, constructive critique, photos, graphics, ideas, and suggestions
are warmly invited, as is information of interest to those concerned about homelessness in
Sonoma County. Publication of any article will be finally determined by the Editor and is
not promised. Articles are edited for length, grammar, accuracy and clarity, and may be
held for a later issue. Submissions must be 500 words or less, and sent via e-mail or CD to
[email protected], mailed to the Task Force for the Homeless at 3315 Airway Drive,
Santa Rosa 95403, or faxed to 575-4494. Submissions must include the full name of the author or artist. Typed or legible handwritten articles will be accepted from authors who do not
have computer access, but must be received at least one week prior to the regular deadline.
Publication Dates for 2015 Submission Deadlines
April 30, 2015 Fall/Winter 2014
Presented at October in Paradise:
Harvest for the Homeless
By Clara Else
Sonoma County has the tragic distinction of the largest proportion of homeless youth to age 24 of any nonurban county in the United States. No one has done more to change that circumstance than Matt Martin. Many
know Matt for his vision and leadership in initiating the Social Advocates for Youth Dream Center expected to
become reality by late 2015. The gift from Sutter of the closed Warrack Hospital site was a real godsend. Many
nonprofit directors would simply have said YES!! and then jumped in to see how to best use it.
Not Matt. He chose a careful, caring approach, taking a whole year to determine the best way to use the
site, consulting the community and neighborhood as well as evaluating urgent service needs. He adapted SAY’s
original ideas to community concerns And then there was the intense opposition during the approval process,
often based on inaccurate assumptions given that SAY had operated a similar program nearby for over 15 years
without negative effects.
Matt handled this contentious process with patience, wisdom, and real caring for everyone involved. All
while effectively overseeing a major agency that serves local youth with real, honest caring and support. SAY
staff reports that Matt is compassionate, modest, supportive, and encourages family time and self-care. Matt
demonstrated his collaborative spirit by designating Voices Sonoma – a program for and run by foster youth to receive the $500 Task Force check that accompanies the Award. The Task Force was proud to present the
2014 Spirit of Service Award to Matt Martin.
The Task Force was honored as well to offer the 2014 Marijke Byck Spirit of Community Award to Supervisor Shirlee Zane – a strong, innovative, and passionate leader. This Board of Supervisors has done more to
advance the way we address homelessness in Sonoma County than any in recent memory. Each of the Supervisors has been truly engaged, especially in their districts, and helped develop, coordinate, and/or support services.
Shirlee Zane has led the charge. This Board has changed policy and taken a comprehensive approach with a
range of actions from revising the anti-sleeping ordinance to a Safe Parking program, a Cold Weather Plan, and
funding to assure the survival of vital shelter and services, and to develop and place people in affordable and
permanent supportive housing. Shirlee pulled together several county departments that are combining resources
to initiate the new Homeless Outreach and Service Team (HOST). Supervisor Zane also helped initiate the
county’s Behavioral Health Mobile Support Team to accompany law enforcement on 911 calls related to mental
health and substance abuse. And she worked closely with our District Attorney and service providers to establish
the Family Justice Center, with comprehensive resources for survivors of family violence and the sex trade. The
Task Force is grateful for the chance to recognize Supervisor Shirlee Zane’s deep and impactful commitment to
our community.
Fall/Winter 2014
An Evolving Board ASSESSEs Results
and Tackles Big Challenges
By Georgia Berland
Our Task Force Board of Directors is looking toward December and January Retreats to set 2015 Goals and
plan ways to financially support them. Georgia Berland (Vice-President), Rev. Blake Busick, Joe Deitzen, Clara
Else (Secretary), Ed Gomez, Larry Hall (President), Melissa Jones, and Yvonne Milligan (Treasurer) currently
serve. Steve Mezzanato (Tigre Blanco) resigned in November. Sincere thanks go to Barbara Covello, who left
the Board after three years of dedicated service.
Task Force activities have been enormously productive this year. The Health Care for the Homeless Collaborative continued to grow and to support the Respite and Care Transitions Programs it initiated. It reactivated Interdisciplinary Client Support Conferences, and is making good progress on a new program for chronically
intoxicated people. (See p. 1).
We distributed the 2013-14 Homeless Resource Guides and produced an updated 2014-15 edition now
online with links and maps to service sites. The printed pocket editions in English and Spnaish will be ready in
December, thanks to your support. Because of your generosity and many service changes underway, we expect
to produce another update in June 2015.
Our Winter Warmth program distributed over 5000 items last season via 35 service programs countywide.
After only three distributions this fall we’ve already given out 2203 warm, life-preserving items (See p. 7).
We’ve kept you informed and offered paths to involvement through our monthly public General Meetings,
special meetings on emergency shelter and services, our website, media appearances, articles, speeches, and
We’re particularly proud of our accomplishments in Advocacy and Coordination. We couldn’t be more
pleased about the results of convening over a dozen meetings last fall/winter with multiple groups and individuals concerned about the thousands of people forced to survive outside. The Homeless Action! (HA!) group
that formed through those meetings has done an outstanding job reaching out to homeless people through potlucks and discussions to assure that homeless voices are heard and the realities of their situations accounted for
in solutions. HA! researched innovations and formulated excellent proposals for what can be done locally. The
Task Force continued our winter emergency and long-term planning, sharing our experience and perspective
with HA!, the Board of Supervisors, City Councils, and jurisdictions revising the Housing Elements of their
General plans. We consult on local issues as well this year providing advice to potential arts and mobile showers projects, and to businesses that prefer to offer resources and support to campers rather than just move them
Our only paid staff was a 2/3 time Executive Officer and half time Operations Manager. In August a half
time Program Assistant joined us for up to a year, paid through the Experience Works program.
Despite this success we continue to struggle with revenue levels for the last five years that drained our
reserves and don’t meet even our bare bones expenses. We’ll break even this year due to the sale of private
stock donated in 2006 by the Winery Exchange plus a private trust donation. These were one-time windfalls
however. Our hard-working Board has taken on the challenge to remedy our shortfalls and keep the Task Force
healthy and active.
Fall/Winter 2014
Nothing described in this issue would have happened without your support , whether as a volunteer, advocate, contributor, or sympathetic neighbor. YOU are the foundation of any success we may realize. And we are
profoundly appreciative. THANK YOU!! *
“How can I help?” is one of the questions we hear most from every corner of our community. Here are
just a few things we each can do to make a real difference in people’s lives.
• CARRY Resource Guides, water bottles, or energy bars to offer to people in need.
• VOLUNTEER at one of our shelters or day centers, at safe parking or warming sites through Catholic
Charities, or for the 2015 Homeless Count scheduled for January 23rd. (Contact the Community Development
indoor shelter and safe, sanitary, legal places where the thousands of people still forced to remain outside can
live and care for each other without fear of disruption or harassment.
• PARTICIPATE in a Task Force for the Homeless General Meeting (1st Mondays 9:30-11:00 am at the
First United Methodist Church, McMullin Room, 1551 Montgomery in Santa Rosa.
• REVIEW and Comment on your community’s Housing Element. Most are now in the final hearing
stages, and will guide the development of Affordable Housing for at least the next 5 years.
• INCLUDE the Task Force in your retirement and estate planning. You can set up ways to get income for
life or help your heirs and still support the Task Force.
• CONTRIBUTE to the Task Force to help our community collaborate toward ending local homelessness
and helping those already homeless. If you can dig just a little bit deeper, we will be able to help more people
dig their way out of homelessness to stable and productive lives.
*Our donors are listed with gratitude at
Fall/Winter 2014
News From The Winter Front...continued from page 1
vulnerability as space opens. A Safe Parking program was established and is seeking lots to place some of the 20% who
have cars.
In November the Board approved a Winter Weather Response Plan from the Community Development
Commission. It provided $500,000 in “gap” funds to shelters that experienced state or federal cuts, plus
$35,000 to sustain the Guerneville Winter Shelter. It granted $60,000 to Catholic Charities for 50 winter expansion beds at Sam Jones Hall. Other shelters are approved to offer winter expansion beds as well, as they did last
winter. $35,000 went to the future expansion of the Homeless Outreach Service Teams.
Weather below 38°, rain or heavy wind from December through March triggers a “Code Blue” emergency.
Catholic Charities will deploy four mobile Warming Centers, and the Homeless Services Center will be open
for warming, plus an outdoor warming station. There’ll be a hotline for emergency response to people in danger.
Separately, Redwood Gospel Mission initiated a “Nomadic Shelter” to house up to 40 people at churches in
Santa Rosa rotating nightly, transported by the Mission.
We’ve heard of at least twelve homeless deaths so far this year. We’re truly grateful for more shelter,
outreach, and emergency services. Still we hope additional property can be found for indoor shelter or for legal
places where some of the thousands who must remain outside might legally stay in peace and have access to
sanitation services. It may take innovation, like tiny houses or buildings made from shipping containers, and
self-governing communities where people care for each other. Each has happened successfully elsewhere.
We celebrate and appreciate our progress. Yet we have a long way to go. Let’s help each other so we can
all make it through.
Saving Lives...continued from page 1
from which we also picked up tips for the local Respite programs we established in 2010. We learned from the trip, but
need to hold discussions with a full coordinated SIP program. We’re therefore exploring whether the San Diego
program named by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a national
model might send representatives here to confer on program details, and shared the keys to their success.
The HCHC has also reactivated our Integrated Client Support Conferences – confidential opportunities for
people working in mental and physical health, substance abuse, insurers, shelters, housing, and others to confer
on particularly difficult or complex client situations. Caseworkers report that these interdisciplinary conferences
are very useful in helping to resolve client issues.
It’s taken well over a year to accomplish our cost study and outline the solution to this community-wide
problem that affects so many lives. We hope that by the end of 2015 we have a functioning SIP that can continue to grow in capacity and help even more people now recycling repeatedly through our health care and legal
St. Vincent’s Dining Hall 2014
St. Vincent’s Dining Hall, located in Santa Rosa, has served the community for many years in an
exemplary fashion. The compassion and diligence In which all the volunteers give of their time to provide
food for others is what makes this all important effort to help the poor and disabled worthy of praise and
public recognition. Thank you for your tireless service to the people you serve!
Fall/Winter 2014
By Fawn Moran
Did you know that the rate of homelessness in Sonoma County is 4 times the national average
and higher than comparable counties in California like Santa Clara, San Francisco and Santa Cruz?
That we have averaged as many as 30 deaths/year among the homeless living on Sonoma County’s
streets and hillsides. Homeless people are 3 to 6 times more likely to be ill than housed people and
they are 4 times more likely to die prematurely. These are stunning facts.
Our homeless neighbors who sleep outside or in their cars are in a potentially life-threatening
situation. Without enough insulation, they’re at risk of hypothermia and conditions like frost bite and trench foot from
exposure to the elements, as well as colds, flu, and bronchitis. You may feel overwhelmed, even stymied by this information. But there is real hope for most homeless people to get back on their feet if they can stave off the cold and survive the
winter. And you can help.
The Task Force Winter Warmth program provides outdoor survival gear, warm coats and jackets and much more via
agencies serving homeless people. Last year we distributed a record 5,246 items, donated by our generous community,
through 34 homeless service agencies between November 2012 and April 2013.
At our first three distributions in October and November 2014, 2,203 items were claimed, and that number will grow.
More than 3,300 people remain unsheltered and are facing the prospect of extreme weather during this rainy season. Another 1000 (approx.) stay in our overflowing emergency shelters. Many must spend their days outside.
Help us fill the need by starting a drive for warm coats or outdoor gear in your community, workplace, congregation
or civic group. Or collect funds for items we must buy (like socks and underwear). We need warm jackets, sleeping bags,
tarps, tents, backpacks, blankets, rain gear, gloves, hats, gently used athletic, walking or hiking shoes, new underwear and
cushioned socks, flashlights, travel-size toiletries and sweatshirts with hoods. The demand for items for men is great, so
large and extra large sizes are especially needed.
Distributions are held every two weeks until April. If you serve homeless people at a community nonprofit, please
contact us to be included on our email notification list. To let us know about your coat or blanket drive and have a Winter
Warmth flyer personalized for your group, contact Fawn at 575-4494 or email her at [email protected]
THE 2014-15 HOMELESS RESOURCE GUIDE is now available!
By Fawn Moran
Over 10,000 people become homeless in Sonoma County every year. Many are in shock, and have no idea what
assistance is available to help them survive this crisis and regain their housing and stability. Even those who have lived
without homes for years are often lost and confused, with no idea where to go, who to call, or when to show up for vital
food, shelter, employment or legal assistance, or even what types of help are available.
By the time you read this article the English and Spanish language Homeless Resource Guides will be available for
distribution At least 76 service agencies, county departments, libraries, faith-based programs, law enforcement, alcohol/
drug programs and street outreach teams throughout the county utilized the last edition of the Homeless Resource Guide.
The pocket versions are small enough for a back pocket and convenient for people who live outside or move often. Our
top priority is that these Guides go to unsheltered people so they can find the help they so desperately need.
For those who can access a computer or who refer people to services, the Guide is available online at, and can be downloaded and printed as a PDF. Links in the online Guide are live,
so you can go directly to a service provider’s site as well as locate their agency on a Google Map.
We’re deeply grateful to the donors who made this printing possible: an Anonymous Donor In Memory of Dick
Latimer, Sisters of St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation, Barbara Ross Charitable Trust, Community Foundation Sonoma
County, Mike Treinen Consulting, and SOCO Private Security. Ramon Cairo provided the original Spanish translation,
with proofing assistance from Nancy Rojas. Translations of the latest updates were provided by Maria Martin of California Human Development. Your ongoing donations support the staff time to create, update, and produce the Guide. Thank
To arrange to pick up copies of the Guide, please call Fawn at 575-4494, or e-mail her at [email protected]
Sonoma County Task Force
for the Homeless
Safe, Secure, and Affordable Housing for All
3315 Airway Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Phone or fax: (707) 575-4494
Email: [email protected]
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