Grant helps shelter stay open for the season

Homeless client Gene Castro Jr. picks out some clean clothes at the shelter with the help from Shauna Hoggard as the shelter opened for the season last year.

Homeless Coalition anticipates fall grant for permanent housing
Homeless Coalition anticipates fall grant for permanent housing

The Homeless Coalition of San Benito County received word last week that it will receive an $86,000 federal emergency shelter grant that will help to cover operational costs for the remainder of the shelter season.

Doug Emerson, a Hollister city councilman and a member of the Homeless Coalition board, said the grant will help the shelter immensely in a year when community development block grants failed to deliver. The shelter had been running on reserve funds from private donations since opening Nov 1.

“I was going to talk to the board about closing early this year,” Emerson said. “Without this grant, at the end of March we would have no money. Now we will definitely be able to stay open this year.”

Emerson said it is the fourth time the coalition has applied for the federal shelter grant program, which gave out a total of $6.6 million to California shelters.

One of the key changes that made the coalition eligible for the competitive grant is that San Benito County joined a Continuum of Care with Monterey County. A Continuum of Care is a group of nonprofits and government agencies that work together to provide services to the homeless. In the past, Emerson said previous local applications have been denied up to 75 points in the competitive process for not being part of a COC. He said San Benito has also been hurt by not having received the federal grant in the past – those who have had one get points based on their track record with audits.

This year, Emerson also adjusted the amount that he applied for to be half the shelter’s annual budget to maximize the number of points for that portion of the application.

“Now we have a history established,” Emerson said, noting that it should be easier to apply for the grant in the future. “You really have to say exactly how you are going to use it and you are held accountable.”

Moving forward, the FESG program may emphasize a need for permanent shelter space. It is one of the tenets of the 10-year plan to end homeless that the Continuum of Care developed last year. Emerson said that the coalition may be receiving funding through the COC to offer 11 permanent housing units in the fall.

“This is a huge step,” said Cindy Parr, the executive director of the Homeless Coalition. “This is big for San Benito County.”

Through the program, COC provides funding to lease the units for families or individuals. Some of the units will go to residents of the temporary shelter, some to families who are in the winter shelter program offered through the county’s Community Service and Workforce Development, and some for the Emmaus House, a temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence.

“Right now what we see is a lot of clients coming back every year and then we close,” Parr said, of people who work on recovering from substance abuse or other issues. “We have two that are really strong in recovery. The rest are so deep in the hole they don’t see the light. They have five months and then they are back out (on the streets.)”

Emerson and Parr said that one of the key components for the permanent units will be extensive case management. The case management would help clients with finding employment, getting into substance abuse treatment or dealing with mental health or physical disabilities.

“Someone will have to do that,” Emerson said, noting that the CDBG and FESG programs limit the way that funding can be spent – it cannot be used for administrative costs.

He said private donations are one way to cover administrative expenses – and donations are down about $3,000 this year. The group is working with the Monterey Peninsula Foundation on a Birdies for Charity fundraiser (see below for more information.)

One of the requirements in selecting residents for the permanent housing units is that the individual has a documented disability. Parr said it can be physical, mental or substance abuse. She said that of the clients she’s seen this year at the shelter, about half of them would qualify for the permanent housing program. She and Emerson said that they are identifying potential residents now, but will work with Enrique Arreola at Community Services and Workforce Development to decide how to prioritize which clients will be invited to stay in the 11 units.

The shelter has had 30 returning clients so far this season as well as 32 new intakes, Parr said. A new homeless management information system software program has made it easier to track clients who stay at the shelter. Parr said the shelter hasn’t been full yet this season, but she attributed it to the lack of rain.

“The rain really brings them in,” she said. “We will probably get it later, right before we close.”

Parr said that one thing she would like to work with some of the faith-based organizations on is providing a day room – somewhere some of the shelter clients could go during the day to work on resumes or look for jobs.

“They really need a day room to really get serious about recovery,” she said. “At churches, they could do a little yard work or clean up. It gives the guys a little bit to do.”

Birdies for Charity

The Homeless Coalition of San Benito is one of a few local charities that are participating in the Monterey Peninsula Foundation’s Birdies for Charity Fundraiser.

The Monterey Peninsula Foundation is the host of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and it ties that in with a fundraiser each year.

The Pledge Drive component of Birdies For Charity invites Monterey County, San Francisco and Silicon Valley area 501(c)(3) organizations to involve their communities in a pledge drive, similar to a walk-a-thon, based on the total number of birdies made by PGA Tour professionals during the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Anyone can fill out a pledge form and pledge, one cent or more per birdie or a flat rate, to participate in the program. Donor incentives include various great prizes all awarded through random drawings of completed pledge forms throughout the pledging season.

The Monterey Peninsula Foundation covers the program cost and provides a 15 percent match for all pledges received. Visit https://birdies.attpbgolf.com/ to make a donation, or call Cindy Parr at 801-9531.

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