March 2023 newsletterRead Now
Another month has gone by already. Wow. The rains are killing the site preparation, but it has been lovely having the time at the warming station. I have been able to try out the HAS concept and the response has been amazing. We have had more than 120 people come through the station for services and there are about 15-40 per day. We have created a community with very few problems. Thanks to SOS we can pick up meals from the Grange, so the clients always have something to eat as well as the generosity of our Sonoma Community. Daily there are donations of snacks, drinks, sweets, clothing, and paper products. All very much appreciated.
My project manager tells me the retaining walls work great but without being connected to City drainage, yet we have a very large swimming pool. It needs to dry so we can put in the final trenching for the utilities. When that is done, we can move all finished houses onto the property. So, timeline, best guess is two weeks of dry weather. So close yet so far.
Sundays are even more fun than before. Thanks to Todd Evans and Company we now have music on Sunday evenings along with dinner. The diners are a good mix of the Sonoma Community, and the food is fantastic. Faye Mellos has been recruiting different organizations and individuals to take on one or two dinners a year. Really fun for all. If interested call Faye Mellos at 650 444-7560.
Ted Nordquist is now the Programs Developer, and he is working like crazy to get things up and running. We have a lovely man Michael who is an expert on Social Security and has been helping clients 3 days a week with that. We have a retired nurse coming in to soak feet and address foot fungus. Bill Shelilien and Sylvia Bertrum are developing a Peer Counseling program. We are getting AA and NA on property, looking for gym memberships, movie tickets, and classes at the Community Center. Thank you all who donated bicycles, everyone who wants one now has a bicycle! We will have grief counseling and hopefully soon Hanna Center will have their mental health facility up and running. That is what we need most of all.
We have one client who cuts down trees for people and when he gets the firewood, he sells it. He offered to make money for the center and brought the wood over to sell on the street and divides the money between whoever helps him. Great idea, I thought, and so nice to see them all working together. What I forgot is that my use permit does not allow the selling of anything on property so that enterprise had to go until we get on our property. So if you need any firewood please come by and help take it away!!! For a donation as we can’t sell.
Did you know that to get Social Security Disability there is a 64-page application? Wow that would discourage me. Which is why I am naming Michael Jon Bithorn our volunteer of the month. He is at the station 3 days a week working with clients helping them get the benefits they are entitled to but are unable to access. Daunting work. A lovely man who has moved here from Florida and was looking for something to do. Glad he found us. Michael Jon, a very big, sincere, thank you.
I have almost completed the third interviews for our tenants entering the small homes at the Home and Safe Village. They are so excited and thrilled to be chosen. It is a great range of talents, ages, and personalities. All are fully vested in making this work as a community. I am looking forward to moving to the Home and Safe Village and watch their progress.
My dear friend Sabina Ceasar has volunteered to get pajamas for our new tenants. For some of them not sleeping in their clothes will be a first in many years. Think how nice it will be to take a shower put on your PJ,s and slip in between sheets…………………things most of us take for granted. I was talking to the Hebrew School children yesterday and what came to light is that what homeless need the most are the little things: acceptance, a smile, privacy, a way to stay clean, respect, trust, and community. Kids are so smart, what happens when we grow up????
So, if the City renews our use permit we will be a few more weeks, AGAIN, at the warming station, until we get a few weeks of dry weather. This has been an expensive undertaking but so far every month, the Community has pulled through and we make payroll and utilities. The contributions of clothing, food and supplies has been amazing. In the evenings we do jigsaw puzzles, play cards, board games, and watch movies. Pretty fun. Someone donated a 3000 piece puzzle and that one is a real challenge, on day 4 now!!
Is it all rosy……………….of course not. There are the ongoing stories of loss. Things get stolen, friends OD, eviction notices are received making more homeless, medical issues abound, and mental health is to date untreatable. Do we have issues with alcohol and drugs? I would be lying if I said no but I can say it is not the massive issue I expected addiction to be. Trust and respect are a formula that works. My fear is for the client who crosses that boundary and is disrespectful to the warming center. I fear the rest of the clients will make sure it doesn’t happen again. There is huge pride in having a place of their own.
We have BJ Bischoff and her staff Sarah doing our grant writing for us. We were up for a $300K grant from the County. The last step is to be at a meeting when the grants are awarded: mandatory. These have all been on zoom the last few years, so I logon ten to and no meeting………………….by the time I find out that it is only live and in Santa Rosa I am panicked. Sarah Stirech, who works for BJ says, “I can get there”! She rushes out in her PJ’s, no bra, no hairdo, and races to Santa Rosa to get there in time to accept the $300K for Homeless Action Sonoma. My hero!!!! I have the best team ever!! We have a meeting with the Impact 100 organization tomorrow and are hopeful they will help us fund some mental health help through a grant we will share with Hanna Center. James Whitaker who is Chairman of the Board has been taking on the local grants. Kudos to James, I know it is long hard work. Keep your fingers crossed as mental health care is the #1 need in the homeless population.
So, I always wrap up with what do we need.
Thank you so very much, I can’t do this alone, I need the community.
Homeless Action Sonoma, Inc, firstname.lastname@example.org 707 304-0502
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