Roman Perez, Program Director for our House of Peace Residence, says, “Here we are in the happiest place on earth, Chinatown. The place in Salinas not to be in. The one most of us, before coming to work here, would ignore or choose to believe it was not our problem so we closed our eyes to make it disappear. I have found that Chinatown is more than just a mecca for the homeless. We are part of Salinas and we are not going anywhere."
And the programs at Dorothy’s Place are changing lives.
When Roman Perez joined the staff at Dorothy’s Place, he had years of experience assisting families and individuals to find and move into housing. Though his previous work was deeply rewarding, he also saw many people lose their housing (pre-pandemic), due to their lack of experience with what is necessary to maintain a household – income, rent, paying bills, being a responsible tenant, and living interdependently – giving and receiving – within their housing community. With this experience, Roman refers to his vision for the House of Peace program as, “Housing Boot Camp.” It is a learning environment for people who haven’t been successful in attaining and maintaining their housing. Yet.
The House of Peace program provides single rooms for up to 24 people, at two locations. Two social workers, Elisa Silva and Jennifer Islas, and the resident manager, Hilda Martinez, guide residents as they recognize and overcome the obstacles to living independently in their own homes. “Many residents expect to hear, “No” to their attempts at moving beyond homelessness,” says Roman. The House of Peace program is a place to explore ideas and options.
The pandemic challenged the staff and the House of Peace residents. Distancing and isolating made it difficult to maintain their sense of community. Roman says, “We weren’t able to continue our Thursday night dinners where everyone takes a turn to prepare something for the community, even if it is a cup of noodles. That was our time to get to know each other, to break bread.
“Living and working together, staff and residents tried to keep each other safe – masks, handwashing, distancing. We were all afraid of passing the virus to our families. Despite our efforts, some of us were exposed to COVID-19 and some of us, both staff and residents, tested positive at some point during the year. Some became very ill. We cared for those who were ill with the same care we would have shown to our own families. We even managed to have Thanksgiving dinner, distanced, of course. We were not able to have visitors to the residence during this year, even from family, but we kept our commitment to mutual support for each other and hopefully, today we are looking forward to summer, reopening, and renewal.”
Dorothy’s Place is proactively finding solutions and we are always learning.
With love, respect and compassion, Dorothy’s Place provides essential services, transitional support and housing assistance to people experiencing the injustice of homelessness and extreme poverty.
Without your financial support, our work doesn’t happen. Join us! Stand with us as we assist people from street life to home life. Your solidarity is humbly and gratefully received.