Contributed by House of Peace Program Director Roman Perez
Recently, members of our staff were invited to visit the new home of former House of Peace Transitional Living resident, Gregory Nava. Visiting a former client in their new home is an honor and is the direct result of the generous support of our community, including individuals, congregations, organizations, and public agencies.
When we arrived at Gregory’s new apartment, he greeted us with a smile. Of the many smiles he shared with us while he was a resident in the House of Peace, this smile seemed to be the most deeply felt of them all. He welcomed the staff inside and we noticed that he had no furniture, only a television on the floor and a small bed near it.
Gregory offered us something to drink and gave us a tour of his new home. A new bed was provided by Central Coast Center for Independent Living (CCCIL) but he was not making use of it. He said that he is still not ready. He is still trying to get used to the idea that he is not at House of Peace anymore and he has his own place. He still can’t believe it. Mr. Nava is a native of Salinas. He grew up here.
When his marriage ended in divorce, he ended up jumping from one location to another; even staying in an automobile. Whatever provided a roof. Regardless of the situation, he continued to work but never had enough money to afford his own place.
He knew that services to help him were out there, but “I was just too proud to make use of them. When I began looking into the services I ended up with Dorothy’s Place and the House of Peace. It all started with Project Roomkey. Dorothy’s Place was handling it.” he said.
“It was a nurse who guided me to the House of Peace. I remember one time I was in the hospital for a little thing. This was about a year before Project Roomkey and before I came into House of Peace. As I was admitted to the hospital, a nurse from the Health Department began to ask me what I was going to do after I was discharged and I had no answer except that I was homeless.
That I had no place to stay or to go to. She kept my info and then around May of 2020, she called me and offered Project Roomkey, which provided temporary housing.
From there I jumped to House of Peace. After six years of jumping from one place to another, I finally had a place to sleep and not have to worry.” Our staff asked Gregory how he feels now that he has his own place and that he isn’t living at House of Peace anymore? “Man, I get here everyday and I love this. I get home and there is no one to tell me what to do.”
Is his comment intended toward House of Peace? “It is.” he declares. “You guys have many rules. But I liked it there and I do admit that a lot of the rules were there to prepare me for this. To prepare me for my own place.”
Does Gregory feel more at peace now? “I do. I do feel more at peace. My granddaughter will be visiting me soon from Yuma. I look forward to taking her out to places, now that they are opening to the public.”
To others who are experiencing homelessness, Gregory said, “Just keep on going. These programs are not hard. They are not difficult. But at the end of the day you have to want it. You have to want to get your place and change. There are good people out there. People that deserve housing. It is time for them to realize it is time to stop and just focus on this, housing. Make use of the services and throw away your pride.”
As the staff left Gregory’s new home, he said, “Thank you, House of Peace. Everyone at Dorothy’s Place. Thank you CCCIL.”
With great respect and admiration, we said goodbye to our Kitchen Director, Nic Bianchi, who retired at the end of June. She will be missed. Here is her special description about how we managed to continue serving hundreds of meals during the most difficult times of the pandemic – and some of the things we learned. — Jill Allen
by Nic Bianchi, Kitchen Director
Dorothy’s Kitchen was founded by a group of people who simply wanted to feed the hungry and the poor.
Today this longstanding tradition still stands, and Dorothy’s Kitchen is available to provide hot meals twice daily, every day, and emergency groceries to anyone in need, no questions asked. Our paid staff consists of a cook, a manager, a maintenance person and a driver to pick up donations from the community; however, we could not serve our high-quality nutritious meals without dedicated volunteers.
Our challenges in Dorothy’s Kitchen include lack of storage, managing donations, and managing volunteer support. We are blessed with a few dedicated volunteers who come, rain or shine. That said, it seems like we can always use another hand!
Sometimes meals need to be very simple because we just don’t have the help required to prep and serve anything but soup and bread; however, it must be said that a very hearty, well-prepared soup (or beans) and bread are among our favorite meals!
We also have many organizations in the community that provide volunteer support and ingredients for the meals we prepare. The National Charity League is a huge help. If we are running low on a particular ingredient, they will put out a request to their network. Their mother-daughter teams volunteer on a regular basis.
We have a very dedicated group of faith communities that staff our weekends. Some of them have been coming for years! They use our Kitchen to cook and serve hot meals to guests on Saturday and Sunday.
We are blessed with special private donors we can call when a need arises. Some provide us with
Jill Allen, Executive Director
Part of my job, my responsibility to the com munity, is to inform you, as best I can, about chronically unsheltered people: the street people, the ones that camp under bridges or in runoff ditches. These aren’t the occasionally or situationally homeless folks that with a little help are back on track within a year. The folks I’m talking about are the folks we don’t talk about much at all. They’re the ones that have lived years of bone-pounding, gut-wrenching, cold and wet homelessness, feeling entirely out of control, and often acting out of control as well. After untold trauma and neglect, they fall prey to drugs and crime, and to the street economy and street morality. We don’t think about them much because they are just painful to think about.
Aside from the unspeakable physical and mental suffering, let’s take this conversation in a different direction. For discussion’s sake, let’s talk about un- sheltered consumers. Just like other consumers, they devour food, shelter, and services. They live a rough existence, but they still shop at convenience stores, go to the movies, use public transportation or their own vehicle. They also consume “no-cost” meals, “no-cost” lodging, “no-cost” government services, and “no-cost” health services. Other consumers pur- chase commodities or service from our businesses, so we study them, wishing to learn their needs, wants and desires, because we want them to shop in our businesses. Why aren’t we just as interested in unsheltered people? We should be.
Without even thinking about it, through tax dollars, you are paying for meals, lodging, emergency room and primary care services, often for long periods of inpatient care, and government offices that provide these services, not to mention frequent arrests, incarcerations, public attorneys and court time. We believe we do this to help people out of misery, but we often unwittingly perpetuating the misery. We all just move along thinking that we’re doing the best we can do with an impossible situation.
I’d like to challenge that. I believe we can do better, and I believe we can do this by studying these folks as consumers. We can turn an endless waste of resources into well-planned services and commodi- ties that actually repair underperforming social services and turn lives around. I like to call this strategy
“The Consumer Rule”. Mary is a white woman in her mid-thirties. She is friendly and open. She had the outward signs of a woman on the skids. I suspected she used crack and perhaps heroin. Still, she possesses a certain confidence and is likeable, not lamentable. One evening, I was at a function and picked up an extra dinner to go. As I walked to my car, I stopped to speak to Mary and offered her the dinner, which she accepted kindly. We sat on the curb together while Chinatown whirled all around us, and I found that she was truly a focal point of the neighborhood, in
fact, a merchant. She sold “ice" crystal meth in a small packages that her customers could afford. In the 15 minutes I sat with her, she made five transactions, all very friendly, and while she stopped her dinner to pull more ice out of her pockets, she would speak with each customer, addressing them by name, asking them something personal, like how their dog was doing or had they seen their brother lately. She was their merchant, but their trusted friend as well. She knew her consumers and how to hold their trust. I’ll never forget that.
“Consumer Mary” was motivated to regain custody of her daughter and acquired a job, then soon after, she qualified for a housing voucher and moved into a new apartment. Once there, she immediately petitioned to reclaim custody of her 14-year-old daughter and won. Success! But it didn’t start that way.
Mary lived for years selling drugs and living off “free” meals. She’s met a lot of homeless services providers and addiction counselors. She’s been locked up, beat up, and severely injured on the street. She watched her daughter being raised by her sister and felt the pain of her child’s unhappiness. What changed her life? The ability to trust. Someone showed that they cared, was frank and real about her opportunities, and respected her choices. Mary’s choice was to do what it took to get her daughter back. The housing subsidy they receive, thanks to your tax dollars, is a fraction of what it used to cost to pay her hospital, incarceration, and justice system costs.
As service providers, we need to earn the trust of our consumers, and allow the consumer’s motivation, their needs, wants and desires, to determine the path to success. Amazon earned my trust to deliver consumables to my door because they allow me to make the decisions on what I want and when I want it. If they didn’t, I’d have nothing to do with Amazon. Same principle.
The consumer must exercise decision-making power, not the service provider. I’ve observed social services for decades and seen how services are structured to be safer and more convenient for the service providers, ignoring signals from consumers that flatly reject congregate shelters, doctor’s offices and County service offices because there was nothing there that has any value to them. Or perhaps because what was there didn’t respect or value them as the consumer. The consumer must be the driver and the service provider commissioned to provide the right work at the right time on the consumer’s timetable.
Using the Consumer Rule, we look for ways to authentically gain the chronically unsheltered con- sumer’s trust, since that trust is the most valuable, irreplaceable commodity in service. We know that those that survive the unsheltered life often acquire great skill in manipulation, and will constantly test us as the trust bond develops, maybe first with simple requests, and later with complex or unreasonable ones, to see how we react. If we are unauthentic, they see right through us and place us in the same cat egory as all the others that have disappointed them.
I’ll write more about The Consumer Rule in future newsletters and on our website, https://www.dorothysplace.org/category/in-harms-way/. If what I’m writing causes you to question the system, or to question me, please let me know at jill.allen@ dorothysplace.org.
Kitchen Pandemic Notes
the endless supply of paper products we need to serve from the door during this time of pandemic, and they provide anything we need that cannot be acquired from the Food Bank or our regular commercial donors. We are so grateful to Nob Hill, Smart & Final, Acme Coffee, Grocery Outlook and Costco! The Food Bank for Monterey County has been a great partner for decades!
These partner relationships keep the volunteers and the food flowing to serve about 400 meals daily, 100,000 annually, at Dorothy’s Kitchen!! Our success is their success too, we couldn’t do it without their support and we had the chance to find that out!!
In March 2020, when the Coronavirus became a reality in Chinatown, the food supply and the volunteer supply both dried up, seemingly overnight!! Our donated food is good, usable, outdated food that cannot be sold retail. Our volunteer support consists mainly of retired people and they, too, needed to quarantine and take care of their health. Our Kitchen was left without much food coming in and without people to prep and serve.
Initially, our manager, cook, driver and maintenance person were the only staff getting food out to the increasing numbers gracing our door. We made the decision early on to close the dining room to guests and serve meals from the door.
A simple soup and sandwich meal was often served and some days it was just bread and fruit in a bag, However, we did not miss ONE DAY of opening our door and serving our guests something to eat, twice a day. I think the main quote from staff during those days was, “How are we going to do this?” But we did. Each day, then the next . . .
Just about the time that we stabilized with more hands and more food, the next challenge hit. When our guests began to move from their encampments into motels (Project Roomkey identified the most health-challenged unsheltered people and moved them into COVID isolation) they needed three meals daily. Our challenge was to serve not only the 200 people that came to Dorothy’s Kitchen twice daily for meals, it was also the three meals per day for 75 people in motels in another city!
It was a huge challenge to design a plan, to resource ingredients, and then come up with the extra refrigeration required. Thermo King provided a refrigerated trailer and our nimble and creative team engineered meals that could be heated up in motel room microwave ovens! These daily meals were prepped and refrigerated, and picked up before breakfast every morning for six weeks.
The lessons learned from responding to the Covid crisis have been many! Among them are how important we are to each other. Every member of the team counts and is important to our focus, which is: The Guest.
Arthur Van Buren Seavey
Blake T. Pintar C.P.A
Budget Inn Motel
California Inn Motel
City of Salinas Community Development
Curtis K. Myers
David & Judith Mora
David Ligare & Gary Smith
Donald Fennel M.D.
Dr. Willard & Lori Wong
Estate of Margaret Shipley
First Presbyterian Church of Monterey
Jessee & Portia Reyna
John & Kimberly Beardshear
Kathy & Sheri Dawes
Lim Family Enterprises
Marina Motorsports, Inc.
Ralph E. Love, Jr.
Richard S. Broome
Robert J. Brandewie
Rotary Club of Salinas Valley
Rousseau Ranches, LLC
Salinas Rodeo Rotary Club Foundation
Salinas Valley Community Church
Salinas Womans Club
Santa Fe Mercados Inc
Shirley & Wayne Moon
Shoreline Community Church
Thomas A. Kieffer
Thomas R. Prelle
Walter G. Canipe Foundation
William W. Pshide
Yellow Bus, LLC
Yung H. Lee
1st Church of Christ Scientist
Carlos C. Lopez
Martin A. Vonnegut
Order of Malta, Western Association
Ron & Linda Borgman
William S. Deaknye Foundation
Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop
The Dunspaugh-Dalton Foundation Inc.
Buddhist Churches of America
Community Foundation for
Monterey County Dept of Social Services
Monterey County Whole Person Care
June 2021 marked David Fernando’s seventh year with Dorothy’s Place. As a Community Health Worker with Dorothy’s Drop-In Center, he has a special rapport with the people who live outside, who are the guests of the Drop-In Center. “I hear how our guests talk about us, the staff in the Drop-In Center. Sometimes people are frustrated by the rules, but they are always positive about the people who work here.
“The reason is the atmosphere in the Drop-In Center that emphasises trust, acceptance without judgement, and simple rules for safety and fairness. I found a way to create a good flow and rhythm for the day.”
David Fernando came to us, like many of our staff, as a volunteer. “I wanted to find something I can do well, to contribute. Since the pandemic began, I have been one of the staff who meets our guests at the door to the Drop-In Center. Wearing masks makes it difficult to show your smile so I focus on good vibes to greet people at the door. We make sure everyone knows how to stay healthy. We are all pretty con- ditioned to the COVID safety policies now.
“I do data entry for the organization and I also sort and distribute the many pieces of mail we receive at Dorothy’s Place. Approximately 400 people receive mail at our address. Mail is something many take for granted until you don’t have a place and receiving mail becomes an obstacle to applying for housing, jobs, and all types of resources. That is why our mail service is so important.
“The most important thing I offer is to listen and let people know that I am someone they can trust. People ask if they can talk to me privately, to work through an issue without judgement. I tell our guests that there is a boundary between the street and inside the Drop-In Center. We provide a place for services and the Drop-In Center is also a place to relax. We ask how we can help our guests to decide on their next steps. We are not here to force people to seek change. That comes naturally, with time,” says David.
By Jacqueline Gacayan
“We build relationships with the forgotten people of ourcommunity,” says Jackie Gacayan, the Dorothy’s Drop-In Center Program Director.
“We provide hospitality for everyone who comes through our doors, including those who may not be welcomed anywhere else due to their appearance, and sometimes their behavior. Our staff, all of whom are Community Health Workers, greet our guests with a welcome smile and hospitality.
“The Drop-In Center Community Health Workers (CHWs) help our guests sign-up for services such as bathrooms and showers, where there’s a clean towel, soap and shampoo already placed on the chair in the showers, clean clothes from our clothes closet, laundry service, and a place to receive mail – regular basic, day-to-day services.
These are things that many of us routinely give to ourselves on a daily basis without realizing how important and valuable they are. Hot water and a shower are so significant to our lives,” says Jackie.
“A man came to the Drop-In Center recently and asked for bus tickets. He told one of the CHWs that he had a medical appointment due to incontinence. This appointment, aside from treatment, also might determine his disability status. We made sure he was able to shower and get clean clothes before the appointment, and yes, we provided bus tickets.
‘That simple offer of hot water for a shower and clean clothes allowed him to go to his appointment with his dignity intact. This is our purpose; this is why we are here.
“As we see more people who are aging and living outside, in tents and vehicles, we see more challenging health issues. Like, what do you do when it is time for a colonoscopy? We work with the resources that are available and somehow make it work. Our community, our forgotten community, deserves our respect and our assistance, and we are happy to serve them.”