I have been putting in 12-hour days then wondering why I am tired. It is so exciting to be close as well as so frustrating. The Home and Safe Village is looking good and taking on a personality. There has been a crew of homeless clients working harder than you would imagine. They are so happy to be part of the process and to be treated as valuable to the process. Steve Jaca, the contractor, has hired a few of them and wants to hire others. Amber, who works for me and is a woman who can do anything, is running my crew. She is much like Steve Jaca in temperament, and they walk the same way. My crew calls her “little Steve” and his crew calls him “little Amber.” They are both flattered!!
So, we have the houses done, the fire safety done, the water in, the tent up, the electrical about finished, the ADA access paved and ready, the dog run built, and I keep waiting for the occupancy inspection. First the fire inspector said that we needed to finish the driveway and parking spaces before they will sign us off (first I heard of that), then we are told the outside lights need to be on solar sensors, (first I heard of that), then I am told before opening all signage must be up and in braille as well (first I hear of that)……………………….so I wrote to the County and to Steven Telleria and asked to have in writing all things we need to have done before we can open. It was looking good as I read the list until I came to #8 which said we also need to contact the Planning and Permit Department for any other items. (You know that noise that they make in cartoons when everything just doesn’t work)
So we are back to not really knowing. I have reached the point where it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. So, I am looking at moving clients in on Sunday and in a couple of weeks have a grand opening where you will all be invited with the brass band, balloons, and flying pigs!
We have had 2 Sunday dinners at the tent, and it feels so good. Clients are proud that it is their space, and it just feels so much better. It breaks my heart to show them the units and then send them back to sleep under the bridge. Somehow there is a disconnect here. Do we really need braille signage to open?? We had rented a portable bathroom/shower unit. It was ADA approved for the United States, it was approved by the County: then the inspector came on property and measured the unit, and it was, I believe, only 4” too narrow, even though it could accommodate a wheelchair with a full 360 we had to send it back. While waiting to build our own units (started) we are planning to use porta potties and the Redwood Gospel Mission Mobile Shower Unit. That has opened another can of worms. This time the inspector said OK, and the County Permit Department had many questions. So, we wait, and wait. In the meantime, the bathrooms/showers/laundry that we are building has added another 150K to the cost.
Everyone wants to know about the first clients who will live on property.
12. Lisa is another elderly woman, very vulnerable to abuse that keeps finding her. She is scared and worn out from being constantly afraid. With a safe place with a door lock she should do better.
13. Jess is a younger woman who has survived by total guts. She wants to have a normal life and we are hoping with a safe place and counseling she will be good for rehousing.
14. Steve is a veteran who has veteran issues, PTSD, and poor health. We will work with Veterans services to get him all his benefits and some stability. Being a veteran, he should be easy to house.
15. Chase is a young man who has been homeless most of his life. Has mental health issues and we are working on getting him disability. When he is clean and sober, he can control the mental health with diet and meds. Needs a stable living situation to get this to happen. Once stabilized he can do some job training and possibly get off disability. The disability will be a good stopgap for this young man as he must learn how to live housed.
16. Kevin is an elderly man who has been on the streets for a long time. He is a nice guy and had the usual issues from long time “living rough”. Once he is settled, we will ask him what he wants as well as do an evaluation for health and behavioral health. Right now, he suffers from PTSD and a month of safe sleep should help that.
17. Mitch is a young man who has suffered from mental illness most of his life. He wants so much to be accepted, is clean and sober and with our Memorandum of Understanding with the new Hanna Center Mental health hub we will get him the help that he needs and move him into the work force.
18. Raul is a young man who works in the vineyards and has a family in Mexico. He is hard working but does not make enough to support himself and family, so he lives rough. We will work with La Luz to move him forward.
19 Anthony is another young man with a similar story to Raul. Same program.
20. Ed is an elderly man who has many health issues. He is just too worn out to be on the streets without help. We will get him evaluated and see what we can do to get him stabilized and get him disability so he can afford elderly housing with IHSS services.
All our first clients have been homeless for many years. Many for 20 plus years. They were chosen by consensus. They all want better. No one wants to live “rough”. It is shameful that we as a community have allowed people to be homeless for so long. The problem is that without technology, without a phone, without an address, without transportation, it is impossible to take advantage of the services available. They have been robbed of their ids, drivers license, well, any identification at all. We start with getting them a birth certificate and work up from there. We will get them a medical evaluation, so we have a base line ready to move forward. We have them all in the County Coordinated Entry System which is a way to eventually get them housed. We have a very long waiting list of people waiting to be housed in the Village or through Coordinated Entry. We will be working with them as well getting them their basics to move them forward as quickly as we can.
What we need.
Thank you all for the great support that this community is showing us. We have always believed that without the support of the community there will be no success.
Annie Falandes Homeless Action Sonoma, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org 707 304-0502
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