Years End – Homeless Action Sonoma, Inc. (HAS)
It has been a crazy year complicated by COVID. We have had some failures and some successes.
Now for a day in the life.
Ted Nordquist and I work at the Redwood Empire Food Bank and we bring back food for a few people like Amber, who have a home but not a car. One evening I brought the boxes to her camper van, and she yells “come on in I’m cooking”. Gary was there, a homeless man who lives in his truck, an IHSS worker whose client died. I joined him on the bench and we all got talking, food is smelling great: Heather and Daniel arrive, squeeze in and without missing a beat Amber makes plates of food for everyone. It was the most lovely dinner I’ve had in a long time. Even squished and balancing plates on our knees. The feeling of family, food being valued, conversation was real and the food eaten with gratitude. It is not the size of your home: it’s the size of your heart!
What we have and what we need.
We now have a P.O. Box 482
We have an unfinished website you can look at hassonoma.org
We have a bank account.
We have applied for insurance.
We need winter shelter – once we have insurance we can get hotel vouchers and hand them out. It is an expensive way to go but better than letting people freeze to death. (although Jim told me if you stuff your clothes with newspaper is insulates pretty well.) You can’t rent a room without either a credit card or insurance, so giving out cash is nice but when it doesn’t go for a room don’t assume they are doing drugs instead.
We need someone to finish and maintain the website.
Need men’s coats, boots, shoes, socks. Sweatshirts, toothbrushes, shampoo, and handwarmers.
We need more mentors – the be-friend program is working well. We have matched four with four so far.
Need someones to sell the “Share Services” program. Form is on web site. Need to ask all professionals in town if they would take one client – pro bono – for a year. EX. A barber – one client for haircuts for a year. Restaurant – one person gets a meal once a week for a year. One doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc. To provide unattainable services to the needy and to form relationships.
Need office space in town. We have outgrown my house.
Need a truck for Ambers business that employs homeless.
Need someone to sell Bobs furniture.
Need someone who knows how to put pictures of Bobs furniture on the website.
And, Yes, we need money.
Need you all to have a very lovely and safe holidays.
Wow, it has been quite a few last months. We have made lots of progress towards the big picture. We are now a full fledged 501c3 with a P.O/ Box, a website in progress, soon to be insured, with an awesome board of directors, a treasurer, a bank account, and many programs that are doing better than I could ever imagine. Even with COVID precautions, we are moving forward. I want to start by thanking everyone who have contributed to the cost of the BBQ's. Thank you Katherine Couteaure, Deb Cambell, Harry Boon, Maria Abedesco, Anea Kamehele, Connie Bennett, and Jane Robb. I was looking Sunday at the table and there were 10 homeless and 5 sheltered people all having a lovely time together and you would be hard put to tell who was who. As it should be. We went through 6 racks of BBQed ribs, potato salad, macaroni salad, green salad, chili, pitchers of juice, cream puffs and more. The great part was that everyone participated, I was not feeding the homeless, we were all having a BBQ. We will do them in my yard as long as the weather holds and Covid reigns. Would love a space with shelter to keep them going??? Ideas???
The store I have in my garage for the homeless to shop at is doing well. Thanks to Pat Severson, Jill Kamehele, Connie Bennett, and Ted Nordquist. Everyone loves to shop and really good stuff has come in. We do need razors, deodorant, shoes, and wash clothes. And always socks.
The furniture refinishing is coming along great. We now have 3 barstools, a dining room table with 6 chairs, a bench and two small benches, a very small chest, and soon 4 beautiful antique cane seated chairs. We have sold 2 adirondack chairs, 2 bar stools, and a coffee table. We will be putting the rest on nextdoor and our soon to be website. It is lovely to have Bob (the furniture refinisher ) arrive and say "I'm going to work now." He does lovely work and has a purpose and an income. Hopefully he will soon be housed.
The BIG immediate problem right now is winter shelter. There are about 20 people in this community that have no shelter at all. They sleep outside, maybe under a bridge or in a doorway. They are vulnerable to many things but for now the weather. I can't seem to understand why a town as affluent as Sonoma cannot care for these few people. Once we get insurance (hopefully by next week) we can try to get hotel rooms for them. We would love a building, church, hall, to put tents in so everyone is socially distanced and has a private space. There is a church in Bend Oregon that did just that for 40 homeless in just one day. It is a matter of attitude. If we continue to think of these members of our community as "other" or "criminals" it gives permission not to help them. Now that I have befriended many I realize that they are human beings, just like me and no more dangerous than my own family. Please find it in your heart to keep these 20 people from dying of exposure. We need a space to either put up small homes, or heated tents, or a building big enough to house them or houses to put them in or hotel rooms, or, or, or. People tell me that it is the government's job. I have talked with Susan Gorin who heads the task force for winter shelter for the county, so far no ideas but to move them to the shelters that exist which are not in Sonoma. Our people don't want to leave Sonoma, it is their home, it is where their families are, it is where their jobs are, it is where they live. I have talked with Kathy King of Sonoma Overnight Services, and asked if they were doing anything and she told me, no, that they were letting Susan Gorin take over winter shelter. I asked if we could work together to help our people in need of shelter and she said no. I don't have her experience but I sure can;t let people freeze to death, so I am asking all of you to put on your thinking caps and help me find a solution. Harry Boon is once again asking the churches to help. I am working with QuickHaven, a small home company start-up in Sonoma but I don't think they will have houses available for this winter. We are looking for property or a building to put tents in or on. Empty stores, empty houses, we will take good care of them I promise. What else???? Synergy works. Please send ideas.
We are having trouble getting speaking engagements. We have a seminar all planned out to give and can't seem to get a venue. The Vintage House says yes but keeps putting off the date. Any other help getting speaking engagements??? As we have talked before it is very important to get out the information on why there are so many homeless, who they are, and what can be done besides warehousing them.
The plans for the facility keep getting fine tuned. We are in need of property. 2 or 3 acres would be perfect. We want to build a facility like Homeward Bound in Navato. It is transitional housing that addresses each person's needs and develops a program to fit the individual. They have a tremendous success rate of moving people from the street into conventional housing in less than 2 years. Pretty awesome, and would be much easier here. Our homeless are fewer and our resources are bigger. Win, win. I will put our proposal on the website next week.
We now have a bank account, a P.O. Box # and a 501c3# so if you would like to donate we could sure use the money. We need to find winter shelter, maintain a website, finance the facility, Harry Boon priced out heated tents and found it would cost about $200/night for two large heated tents, cots, porta potty, and utilities. We could charge on a sliding scale/ person and it would be very doable if we only had property to put them on
We have also outgrown my living room and need an office space, I have asked to share The Haven office space as the building is not being utilized for more than showers and laundry a few hours a day but I was told no. Anyone have office space they would share?
We now have 5 homeless with pro bono therapists. We have four people "befriending" individuals. That means having coffee, arranging medial, help getting benefits, transport to doctors appointments etc. Really are some lovely relationships being formed. The BBQ's, the furniture refinishing, and the jobs to get people working are booming. There are more than 10 of our unsheltered now working at least part time, a lot of thanks to Amber Gill. She has named her business "a little bit of everything", and advertises on Nextdoor. That was a mobile home purchase that has really paid off. Thanks HB.
We would like to do a Christmas Meal. Any ideas for a location? A Barn, A tent, somewhere with a little protection from the weather, I am thinking it can't stay this lovely all winter!
Thank you all for the support, the clothes, the cakes, the volunteering to be-friend, every little bit helps.
May you all have a wonderful Christmas,
HAS Homeless Advocacy and Solutions. (trying out new name, what do you think)
Sonoma, Ca. 95476
P.S. Our Secretary Connie Barrett has been interviewing our homeless and writing up these interviews for publication. They are sweet pictures into the lives of these people, humanizing the homeless. Watch for them.