Since January of this year, we’ve seen both remarkable changes to our Streets To Homes landscape, and created a few necessary changes ourselves. We could write volumes, but here’s the brief outline with a couple stories. We hope you’ll stay interested in our program development and continue to support Streets To Homes.
• Last January, we hired an additional two social workers, Venessa Villa-Martin and Carina Aguilera. Both come with experience working within the homeless community and are excited to add their skills to the constantly evolving homelessness crisis, bringing our team up to eight social workers strong. Once the social workers begin and train we can take more clients from the waiting list. In January, three STH clients achieved permanent housing! And we still enjoy collaboration at our 17 E. Lake St office with Clinica de Salud (medical and dental!), Access Support Network (HIV/Hep C testing) and MC Social Services’ satellite office.
• In February, Carina and Venessa graduated from training, each with a ten client caseload. Once they develop time management skills, they will be able to receive a full caseload of 18. So far, they have brought helpful and excited attitudes and made an ideal fit to the team. After a year of waiting, the Housing Authority released new Homeless Set-aside Section 8 voucher applications, so important since most of our clients are disabled and don’t have enough income to support housing. Nonetheless, our team assisted three more clients into permanent housing this month!
• In March, the full weight of the COVID pandemic settled on us. Unfortunately, due to the Shelter In Place order, many partner agencies have suspended offering services at Dorothy’s Place until further notice; however, Access Support Network and Clinica de Salud Mobile Clinic continue to offer their services. And our Streets To Homes team hasn’t missed a day of service!
• Both Venessa and Carina have received a full caseload of 18 clients apiece, which means the waiting list reduced, we have 144 clients preparing for housing, and we assisted three clients into permanent housing in March!
• April brought big changes and a sweet success story. The changes: the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers took the lead for the State’s Project Roomkey initiative, one that identified unsheltered adults and families with health conditions that made them very vulnerable to COVID-19 and sheltered them in motel rooms. They chose Dorothy’s Place to identify clients and operate the motel program, and the Streets To Homes team was selected specifically to do this because of their experience case managing clients in encampment areas. That gave STH an additional 75 clients! Despite the additional client load, and having the split the staff between two locations (the Salinas office and a Marina motel), we assisted a special client into housing. You may remember us telling you about the man that was actually housed by STH three times,
and backed out each time as soon as he was in the apartment alone. The actuality of being alone in the apartment reignited old trauma and he couldn’t force himself to stay, but kindness, reassurance and continued therapy won out. He was housed in April and has now grown accustomed to his new surroundings!
• The month of May continued the Project Roomkey excitement and meant a lot of overtime for our social workers and program director. Having that many homeless adults in one location proved to be very challenging, but the STH Team managed it well with only four consumers not able to meet the guidelines set in place. With the help of our House of Peace Transition Living Program and the Coalition, our work priority changed to permanent housing for the individuals sheltered in the motel. The benefit of having everyone in one hotel helped us accurately collect data that allowed us categorize individuals based on their circumstances and services they may have received from partnering agencies. We assisted one client into permanent housing in May. Although many Section 8 vouchers were applied for, none had been approved yet.
• In June, the main priority remained housing opportunities for those placed in the Project Roomkey motel and we continued to work collaboratively with all agencies involved. Streets To Homes is continuing to maintain a safe and healthy environment for both staff and clients by constant sanitation of high contact areas and workstations. Social workers are also prescreening clients before they enter the building and are requiring clients to wear masks and wash their hands once they enter the building. STH was able to assist two clients into permanent housing this month with an additional five sheltered in transitional housing. As of June 30, STH will no longer be working at the motel – Monterey County Department of Social Services staff will take over. STH motel
staff will transfer back to 17 E. Lake St. but will continue to provide services to the clients we engaged with at the motel.
• July brought a successful meeting with the Housing Authority for the County of Monterey, necessary because of the slowdown in approved housing vouchers. There had been a constant struggle of poor communication between HACM, Dorothy’s Place, and the clients we are case managing. The new changes made will now allow STH to be in constant contact with HACM, and we will be informed of any communication between HACM and our case managed clients. Due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, we elected to change in-person case management meetings to phone meetings; however, if an in-person meeting was necessary, social workers checked clients before they entered the building for temperature, face coverings, and asked they wash their hands and maintain a safe distance. Many services continue to be limited throughout Monterey County. Many agencies are switching their client meetings to phone interviews. Our social workers have transitioned to help clients navigate through these very confusing times so they can continue to receive services. STH assisted one client into permanent housing in July.
• August: now that we had time to transition into virtual contact, we understood the high importance of constant contact with collaborating agencies, especially with constant changes in policies and procedures. Additionally, because of COVID-19, many grants became available for agencies to make new opportunities or services available to the homeless community. Unfortunately, Streets To Homes did not house any clients for the month of August.
• In September, Dorothy’s Place Streets To Homes returned to Project Roomkey. The Coalition of Homeless Services Providers requested that the Streets To Homes social workers offer training and assistance to Central Coast Center for Independent Living, which had taken over the operation from Monterey County social workers. Our STH social workers specialize in working with highly traumatized chronically unsheltered consumers, and although CCCIL was familiar with generally accepted case management technique, they benefited greatly from learning strategies in the intense case management that is required with these consumers. This offered a new opportunity for STH to work very closely with partnering agencies and develop a new work relationships.
• October brings exciting news! We’ve been asked to extend our stay with Project Roomkey because Salinas was awarded a State-sponsored Project HOMEKEY grant and will be remodeling a 105-unit motel in Salinas into permanent housing, primarily for Project Roomkey clients. Our STH team is working along side Central Coast Center for Independent Living to prequalify 80 Roomkey clients for Section 8 vouchers so they can begin moving into their Project Homekey studio apartment, starting at the end of November. The remaining 40 Roomkey clients that do not qualify for a voucher will still receive case management to achieve permanent housing another way. We may just end the year placing 80 people into permanent housing! What a happy holiday!
Please keep supporting Streets To Homes. Your assistance maintains our momentum! Helping these folks is the right thing to do, and as you can see, we’re proving it possible to permanently and sustainably house them every day!