Homeless Talk Calendar

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Death and Access: Homeless Outcome Data I'd Like Reported



These questions, and others, are important evaluations of program performance of the entire system of care for homeless in Sonoma County.  While some of the answers are contained in current databases used by programs, a more comprehensive review needs to be instituted for advance planning.

  • How many die on our streets and woods?
  • How many die in our shelters?
  • How many die in our transitional housing who were previously housed in shelters?
  • How many die in permanent housing who were previously housed in transitional housing and shelters?
  • How long have those in our shelters lived on the streets?
  • How many times have our shelter residents entered and exited our shelters?  Entered and exited other shelters?
  • How long are people staying in our shelters?  
  • For those with more than one stay in our shelters, where did they live between stays?
  • Did they enroll in transitional housing?  
  • Did they obtain any governmental services or benefits as a result of their stay at the shelter?
  • What services do those who stay at our shelters find most valuable to obtaining more permanent housing?
  • How long have those in our transitional housing lived in shelters or the streets?
  • How many times have our transitional housing residents entered and exited our transitional housing or shelters?  Entered and exited other transitional housing?
  • How long are people staying in our transitional housing? 
  • For those with more than one stay in our transitional housing, where did they live between stays?
  • Did they obtain permanent housing? 
  • Did they obtain any governmental services or benefits as a result of their stay at our transitional housing?
  • What services do those who stay at our transitional housing find most valuable to obtaining more permanent housing?
  • How long have those in our permanent housing lived in permanent housing, transitional housing, shelters or the streets?
  • How many times have our permanent housing residents entered and exited our permanent housing, transitional housing or shelters?  Entered and exited other permanent housing or transitional housing?
  • How long are people staying in our permanent or transitional housing? 
  • For those with more than one stay in our permanent housing, where did they live between stays?
  • Did they obtain other permanent housing? 
  • Did they obtain any governmental services or benefits as a result of their stay at our permanent housing?
  • What services do those who stay at our permanent housing find most valuable?

Stepping Out of Homelessness: Clear and Accessible Pathways to Housing

Greetings!

I know all of you have been supportive of building a system of housing and supportive services which addresses the needs of our community.  And over the past five decades, we have enacted, administered, and fought to improve and retain many excellent components of that system.  And I applaud the more recent initiatives by local and state governments to respond to the accelerating housing crisis.  Our representatives have heard from a unified citizenry that all are effected, and are pursuing solutions like gifts under a Christmas tree.

But more than ever before, what is needed is a stronger coordination of programs to insure that they facilitate clear and accessible pathways to permanent housing for all.

If we agree that a general acceleration of housing development at all levels is an essential component of the solution, and we believe that the housing mobility that results will contribute to those pathways, we must do everything we can to link and coordinate access at each level of housing.

To insure that those living on the street or woods can access shelters, we funded shelters with the expectation that they will be available to them.  

To insure that those in shelters can access transitional housing, we funded shared-housing placement programs, rental deposit and security funds, and short-term rental units with the expectation that they would be available to them.  

To insure that those in shared transitional housing can access stable, individual permanent housing, we built and rehabilitated housing stock with long-term low income access requirements, and established government rental subsidies to attract an even larger pool of available housing.

And those social service agencies working with the occupants of this housing stock assisted them in understanding the many, and often confusing, rules governing eligibility and access.  And supported them to utilize personal services which addressed many additional needs. 

As a result of an unprecedented emergency housing crisis, we are now embarking on both the addition of new housing alternatives between the street and subsidized permanent housing (safe camping and parking, encampments, tiny homes, accessory units, etc), and the modification and augmentation of a level above government-subsidized rental units - affordable housing beyond in-lieu-funded, nonprofit-built housing.  Santa Rosa’s Affordable Housing Incentive Pilot Project and Sonoma County’s Community Development Commission initiatives to partner with local developers are good examples.

In order to insure that those who continue to utilize our housing continuum can truly achieve their goals of self-sufficiency, we need to improve and expand our access coordination for them throughout all levels. A greater sharing and coordination of participants, coupled with coordinated policies for priority eligibility of those in the system to these new levels we are supporting would be good steps to those goals.

Currently, the successful outcomes we report from our homeless support efforts are the number of homeless engaged by our teams who receive health and housing screenings; among those permanently housed, the increase in the number who have a primary health care provider; and the number of emergency room visits and ambulance trips utilized by homeless.

That data, while evidence of the impact on government program use, is not difficult to obtain, and requires little coordination or bridging of silos.  But it doesn’t measure how well we directly assist all homeless to obtain improved housing.  In our efforts to assist homeless at every level of need, we need to better understand how well our system supports upward mobility now.  Let's track and utilize the impact of our housing resources on successful transitions of our users through all levels of our housing resources, from the streets to permanent housing?   


This shouldn’t be that difficult to accomplish. By sharing resident occupancy data and supported improved housing applications, we can build a valuable housing outcome information system.  This information is crucial to the operational improvement of each program, is necessary for effective system policy development and overall funding decisions, and is essential to creating a barrier-free system with the goal of housing for all.
  

Conversation with Jennielynn Holmes, Catholic Charities Homeless Program Director

Greetings!

This afternoon, over hot chocolate at Holy Roast, I talked with Jennielynn Holmes.  She asked for the meeting, but I was as eager as she was, to see if we could come up with good ideas on how to expand communication on the topic of homelessness in Santa Rosa.

The first question she asked was whether she was right in feeling some tension between Homeless Action and Catholic Charities, and between the homeless community and the Homeless Collective.  I said both were true, for the same reason - lack of communication.  Recognizing that everyone was meeting separately on Monday mornings, we agreed that every effort had to be explored to overcome this barrier.  

One of our ideas was the publication of a monthly newsletter, providing her an opportunity to update the community on improvements and challenges.  Another was to adjust meeting times to better accommodate participation in multiple meetings.  We agreed to encourage the Homeless Collective to ensure that significant operational changes, and suggested City Council recommendations, be shared publicly before adoption.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Army Tents

Greetings!

One of our friends in Homeless Action has suggested army tents  Here is here website describing her ideas.


Tent Plan

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Working on Homeless Shelters

This morning, the Press Democrat featured an article on the work being undertaken on the HUTS Project.   Here are some photos from the online article.

Plan to come help paint the HUTS on Tuesday!

10 am - 3:30 or beyond.  Corner of Stony Point Rd and Giffen Avenue in Santa Rosa.






Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Homeless Talk Program Guide

Greetings!

Homeless Talk, Community Conversations in Santa Rosa, kicked off its two-month series on September 29th with a wonderful evening at the Santa Rosa Christian Church.  Seventy participants attended, and evaluations indicated a successful exchange of experiences, thoughts, and ideas.

This Voices on Homelessness Blog will be used to regularly provide information on upcoming Talk locations.  Though some have limited attendance, and those will be indicated, we encourage you to share this post on your Facebook page, to your friends through email, and through other social media.




Thursday, October 13th, 5:30m to 8:30pm
Jack Tibbetts, Host
Member Limited

Tuesday, Oct 18th, 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Ginny Doyle/Hank Topper, Hosts
Open
First Congregational United Church
2000 Humboldt Street

Thursday, Oct 20th, 6pm to 9pm
Betsy Hall, Host
Open
Arlene Francis Center
99 Sixth Street

Saturday, Oct 22nd, 2pm to 3:30pm
Steve Birdlebough/Sally Davis, Hosts
Member Limited
684 Benecia Drive




Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Schedule - Homeless Talk



Santa Rosa Junior College Neighborhood 
Tuesday, October 18, 6 pm
First Congregational United Church
2000 Humboldt St
Hosts: Hank Topper & Ginny Doyle

West End Neighborhood
Thursday, October 20, 6 pm
Arlene Frances Center
99 6th St.
Host: Betsy Hall

Friends House
Saturday, October 22 , 2 pm
684 Benicia Dr
Hosts: Sally Davis, Steve Birdlebough

Oakmont Village
Thursday, November 10, 1 pm
Oakmont East Recreation Facility,
7901 Oakmont Dr.         
Host: Carolyn Greene

Shomrei Torah & Jack Tibbitts are hosting private Homeless Talks.

Confirmed but not scheduled:  Burbank Housing Common Rooms, Catholic Charities Family Support Center, Downtown Business Group, First United Methodist Church, Sam Jones Hall, Social Advocates for Youth ~ Teen Leadership Tomorrow, Beth Ami, & Santa Rosa Junior College.

We still have open dates. 
If you are interested in hosting or for questions, contact us at:
707-583-1509
HomelessTalk@gmail.com


Thursday, September 22, 2016

H.U.T.S. Ten Shelters for Ten Homeless People in Santa Rosa

H.U.T.S.

Harold's Utilitarian Transitional Shelters 

 

Harold's Story

 

H.U.T.S., with a mattress, costs about $600 each in materials and can be built with volunteer labor.  You can help!

An Introduction

I started thinking about homeless shelters as an artist looking for a solution to a problem. The more sketches I made the more clear it became what I wanted to achieve. I wanted a safe, secure shelter for a person and their possessions, one that is mobile, and allows a person to maintain their dignity. The shelter would, by necessity, be lockable while away and securable from within.

So the design criteria became: functional, lightweight, portable, easily built, and inexpensive. There had to be room to sleep comfortably, with a place to sit, and full standing headroom. A pretty tall order.

After the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco responded to the needs
of the homeless survivors, building 5,610 tiny refugee shacks.
These shelters were designed by John McLaren, the "father of
Golden Gate Park" and built by the United States Army.  The
San Francisco Chronicle said on October 21, 1906 that these
helters were "the teeniest, cutest little dovecotes of houses one ever saw”. Kitchen and bathing facilities were communal and located outside of the shacks.


For me all the pieces fell into place on a visit to San Francisco. I saw its residential architecture, and it helped inspire the ridiculous idea of putting two bay windows on a very small box. Bay windows are a defining characteristic of San Francisco homes. A garden cart was the other missing piece. If you look closely you can still see the garden cart in there! Over the cart's handles I put a shed extension, making room for a person's feet while sleeping. This allowed the shelter to look very compact and unassuming from the outside, yet feel quite roomy on the inside. Under the sleeping platform, there is interior storage for four standard 12 gallon plastic totes with hinged lids, about four suitcases worth of storage.

The image of an attractive bungalow-style shelter gave me the thought that the homeless should not be hidden, they ought to be seen and accepted as part the community. Why shouldn't they be a part of the community? 86% of Sonoma County's homeless were residents when they became homeless. This is why I've tried to make the shelter fit in, and attractive, by adding various visual cues that suggest 'home' and 'house'. A grouping of H.U.T.S. will look so much better than an encampment of makeshift tents.

The Problem

Now where do they go? That is a real thorny issue. As it is now, in so many ways, the homeless are asked to be invisible, in the underlying hope that if conditions are made bad enough for them they will simply just go away. Though it is is not illegal to be homeless, it is illegal to seem homeless.

When sleeping in public is illegal, where do you sleep when there is nowhere to sleep? All this is not only crazy-making, it is foolish and cruel.

At first I had the homeless of Oakland and San Francisco in mind, since the cities tacitly allow the homeless in public so long as they do not set up a permanent residence. I thought with these vendor-like carts they could setup wherever might be acceptable that day. Should they get rousted in the middle of the night, they could more easily push down the street not having to take down a tent, load their belongings in a shopping cart, and flee with one crooked wheel clacking.

Late at night on June 27, 2016, Cirak Tesfazgi, a young homeless Eritrean man, was murdered in downtown Santa Rosa while sleeping in a store front alcove. He was by all accounts a kind, gentle soul who sold pamphlets of his poetry in front of Peet's Coffee shop.  It sent a shock through both the homeless and business communities. Under pressure, the city council's homeless policy subcommittee also took it to heart.

By coincidence it was around this time I was nearing completion of the shelter prototype, having started construction without knowing if it would, in the end, be of any use. I worked simply with the question in mind, if I were on the street what is the minimum I would need? I began looking into the homeless advocacy scene in Santa Rosa, going to the city council's homeless policy subcommittee meeting. There it was my great good fortune to meet Adrienne Lauby of Homeless Action!.  She was very open to the H.U.T.S. design.

The mayor and city council were eventually persuaded to take the bold step to declare a state of homeless emergency. Doing so allows zoning restrictions to be relaxed and action more quickly taken. It is now being decided exactly what will be allowed. It is my hope that small intentional communities of 6-10 shelters can be set up on church, city, or state property. There toilet and personal hygiene facilities can be brought in, or shared.

Intentional Communities

Community is the foundation of security for the homeless. A safe transitional place, that hints at a way out, is needed. A place where one can pull themself together. A place where social services can offer help. A safe place to sleep, and a safe place to keep personal belongings.  A place to sleep free from harassment.

Yet this little shelter is only an answer for those who are called the chronically homeless, those who have found themselves by circumstance out on the streets for an extended time. Immediately helping these people, in a most desperate situation, would not preclude a more comprehensive long term solution. It would, in fact, work in tandem with it, forming an integral part of a larger answer.

H.U.T.S. are not houses, not even tiny houses. They are envisioned as a transitional shelter and humanitarian relief.

Call for Action

Please consider helping us with our efforts in this emergency. Help us give some people a safe, dry place to sleep this winter.

Partners and Construction Plans

Homeless Action!, Task Force for the Homeless, and AmeriCorps volunteers are planning to construct ten H.U.T.S. on a Day of Service, Oct. 22, 2016.  AmeriCorps volunteers will be seeking donations of construction materials. If you are able to donate, in any way, please contact Kaitlin Carney, Volunteer Program Assistant, kcarney@napacoe.org.

Along with the AmeriCorps volunteers dedicated to this project, Homeless Action! and the Task Force for the Homeless will call on their local networks and connections to ensure this project succeeds. And, of course, homeless people will be helping at every stage.

What We Need for Success

1) Access to a construction site for approximately three weeks. Ideally, a large parking lot with covered parking to stage materials, with basic measures to discourage theft and vandalism. We will need time to collect and deliver the materials to the site before work begins. When we start building we will use assembly line construction with up to 40 people working in a coordinated team effort. If you know of such a space please contact Cynthia Stebbins, Homeless Action! Project Coordinator, cstebbins54@gmail.com.

2) A place for the H.U.T.S. community to settle. Community is the basis for security. Although H.U.T.S. could be parked in individual parking stalls, or used almost any place where people currently sleep outdoors, we believe they will have their greatest benefit if they are situated in a place with access to toilets, hand washing and shower facilities, and an outdoor kitchen.  We hope a community of H.U.T.S. will create stability, friendship, cooperation, and trust. We see it as a place where community can grow.

3)  Donations of materials and money to buy materials.  Here's how to donate.

Harold Wallin
Santa Rosa, California

H.U.T.S. design, and H.U.T.S. photographs, © Harold Wallin 2016


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions - Homeless Talk



     
1) What is Homeless Talk?
Homeless Talk is a series of twenty-five or more facilitated open-ended large group discussions in community centers, clubs, congregations, and private homes in Santa Rosa to share thoughts on homelessness.
Our mission: To engage our community in conversation regarding homelessness in our city with no 'Homeless Talk' bias, judgment, opinions or specific agendas put forth. Our aim and commitment is to take your community voice and present it where it may have an influence on solutions.



Hosting a Homeless Talk:

2)  As a Host of a Homeless Talk meeting, what are you asking of me?  
This job includes interfacing with the people who own the building where it will be held (if it  is someone other than yourself) planning the date, inviting people, setting up the room before the meeting and cleaning up afterward.  Snack food is optional.  Your group may provide food or it may come from the Steering Committee.  Homeless Talk will provide a facilitator and format for the meeting, and pay any agreed-upon fees.  We will bring handouts and other materials, provide note taking, and help with set up and cleanup.  In addition, at least one steering committee member will work closely with you as you set up the event.


3)  Who will do the publicity to get people to the meeting I am hosting?
This is a collaborative task.

Homeless Talk will publicize every meeting in the newspapers and other standard outlets, as well as on our Facebook page and through our newsletter.  We will publicize our effort as a whole, as well as telling people about upcoming meetings.  We may provide targeted publicity in your neighborhood or to specific groups of people.  We will put posters and other signage on the building the day of the event.

We hope you will invite neighbors, colleagues, friends and family, as well as using the mailing lists of any organization that is involved.


4)  Is there money to cover the cost of any mailing I might do, or brochures?
There will be some money but we are still raising it.   And, by the way, in-kind and monetary donations are tax deductible.  As you are planning your meeting, talk with your steering committee representative about the specific amount you need and we will attempt to get it to you.


5)  As a host, will I have to speak and if so what will I be asked to say?
You do not have to speak if you don’t want to, however, we would be honored if you would welcome those who come, provide information about the building (location of bathrooms etc, and thank anyone who has helped you.   At the least, we would like to acknowledge you and your work during the meeting.


6)  Who will facilitate the conversations?
We are training a cadre of volunteer facilitators.  Many of them will come from Sonoma State University’s Organization Development Masters Program, where they have become skilled facilitators.  We hope to have two facilitators at each meeting as well as a note taker.  Please tell us if you would like to facilitate or know someone who could fill that role.


7)  How will information be collected?
At the least there will be note taking at each meeting.  In addition, we will have a brief survey at each meeting that will also be on-line.  We are looking into more intensive methods of collecting information.


8)  How many people will be at each conversation?
There is no requirement or minimum for a conversation.  We are hoping that each one will draw between 10 and 30 people but that will depend on you as the host, the sponsoring organization (if there is one), and Homeless Talk. 


9)  How long will a meeting be?
The formal meeting will last 90 minutes (1½ hour).  Please plan an additional 30 min. for set up and try to keep the room available for 30-45 min. afterward for extended discussions and clean up.


10)  Is there a bias in these conversations?  If so, what is it?
Our bias is the radical belief that people can figure out their problems themselves, even large problems like homelessness.  We believe that bringing people in Santa Rosa together in groups with some help from a facilitator will provide the next set of solutions for the issues of homelessness.  We will talk about the issues that individuals bring into the room with them.  The facilitators will be trained to encourage everyone to talk and to exhibit no judgments.

We were inspired by speakers from Everyday Democracy last winter.
Find the Everyday Democracy talk in Santa Rosa here:


11)  What do I do next?
a)  Take a look at your calendar.  Do you have some time between now and November, when you could organize a conversation? (If so, see #6 above.)
b)  Contact your prospective organization or building and find out whether they would help you by providing the room and any publicity.
c)  Find a couple of evening or weekend dates that work for everyone,
d)  Contact us to get a steering committee representative.
e)  Confirm a date and begin working on the details.


General Questions:


12)  How will information from Homeless Talk be used?
We will collate responses to these questions as well as other information from formal and informal meetings.  When we finish this round of meetings & discussions, we will prepare a report that will be released to the public.  Your name will not be used unless you give us specific permission.  We expect the Santa Rosa City Council, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Social Service Agencies, Business Owners, Neighborhood Groups and Individuals to find the information useful when issues of homelessness arise.


13)  How can I help?  There are many ways you can support this project, by attending a Homeless Talk Conversation, helping with publicity, grant writing, food or drink donations or a tax deductible contribution.  Our contact information is below.  Please get in touch.  One of the most useful things you can do is to become a host for a specific Homeless Talk Conversation.   It's easy.


14)  How can I make a donation?
Make your check out to our fiscal sponsor LIFEE, Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy, put “Homeless Talk” in the memo line and mail to 9826 Keith Court, Windsor, 95492.  Donation through LIFEE are tax deductible.

Or contact the steering committee through the e-mail or phone number below.


15) Who is on the Steering Committee of Homeless Talk?
Our volunteer steering committee members are Gregory Fearon, Pat Kuta , Hank Topper,& Lawrence Lehr from Santa Rosa Together, Adrienne Lauby and Cynthia Stebbins from Homeless Action!, Cecile Querubin, Organization Development Consultant, and Hrieth Anet Pezzi, community educator and group process consultant.  Cynthia brings her experience as a homeless woman to the group.


16)  Are there formal partnerships and, if so, with whom?  Who are the people connected with these partnerships?   
Our strongest coalition members are from Santa Rosa Together and Homeless Action! (see above for individual names)   We have asked the City of Santa Rosa to become a formal partner and hope to grow the coalition further.  We have the support of individual Santa Rosa City Council members, some of whom will be hosting conversations.


17)  Have there been open planning meetings about this?   If so, who are in those groups?
Since the Fall of 2015 the Homeless Talk Steering Committee has held 5 open planning meetings which included a wide variety of people.  A partial list:  Anita LaFollette, Beth Dadko, Chuck Cornell, Chris Coursey, Georgia Berland, Ernesto Oliveras, Enrique Yarce Martinez, Hank Topper, Jim Leddy, Jennielynn Holmes, Jim Sweeney, Lawrence Lehr, Michael Gauss, Betsy Hall, Sheila Baker, Tim Carnahan, Tanya Narath, Jackie Brittain, Rene Riggs, Thomas Ells, Tom Schwedhelm…   Organizations and groups included the Junior College Student Government, several churches, the Santa Rosa School District, Sonoma County, Burbank Housing, City of Santa Rosa, Homeless Action!, Santa Rosa Together and homeless individuals.


18)  Are the city or county involved and, if so, how?
Staff members from Sonoma County attended our early meetings and helped us plan our initial strategy.  Both staff and Council Members from the City of Santa Rosa have also attended meetings and offered their encouragement.  We do not have a formal relationship with either governmental group at this time.


19)  How can I reach you?
To volunteer to host or for any other questions,
e-mail HomelessTalk@gmail.com or leave a message at 707-583-1509.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Playing the Game, or Not?

When the family of a homeless person does not want to acknowledge their status as homeless, I am made aware of the difference in the way people view this condition.  There is a huge social stigma which needs to be broken down, here.  When a person becomes homeless, it is not that they are to blame whether it is from lack of rent money, inability to get along with spouse or roommate or complicated matters with predatory lenders who suddenly say, “Your home is ours”.  It may seem at first light that you have done something wrong, being without a structure to call home.  Yet we all struggle with the system which somehow gives you a score on your ability to manage finances.  This has essentially nothing to do with who you are, personally, only how you are at jumping through those financial hoops.  There are those among us who have jumped through these for years without success.  As the late Bernie Ward states, “the Capitalistic system has lied to us!”
  
What we were trying to say with the Occupy movement was that these huge systems are not within our control and they do not have our interests at heart.  It’s like playing a game of hide ‘n seek with friends.  If one person stops, stands in the middle of the room saying, “I don’t want to play anymore’, the game ends, kids hide behind chairs and in closets but it’s not the same game anymore. 
  
You see, in case you do not recall from high school history, it was Benjamin Franklin who made up this financial system.  Years ago, after the Vietnam war, there were stories of the Penac Agreement.  A lot of leaders of large countries and corporations got together and decided which direction the system should go.  We all saw the pictures of the newsreel of the big Cadillacs and Mercedes driving up to the big hotel entrance with flashbulbs going off.  It was like from Hollywood Academy awards.  The big financial system decided that a certain amount of unemployment was inevitable, and that a certain amount of families should have children and some could go to war or whatever.  We were never privy to their discussions, nor to their negotiations or planned outcomes. These up-e ups decided that at some point we are going to have a certain number of homeless.

Now at the Board of Supervisors of Sonoma County, they allocate a certain amount of funding to build a certain amount of structures for people to live in, and with gentrification the city and county want to build big beautiful structures for rich people to live in.  It gives them a bigger profit margin.  The more mundane structures like condos and apartments are not as lucrative.  They tear those down; same idea as “Reunify Downtown”.  The board and council know full-well they are not providing all the shelter we will need.  They are not concerned with you when you get sick, lose your job and cannot pay rent anymore. 

  
If England voted to opt out of the EU, just because there was unrest in the country, someone was up there making that decision, like it would settle the unrest.  D. Trump was put in the running to make Hilary look good.  Do we want to play in this game?  Some are deciding they don’t.  It feels too much like manipulation.  Some continue to play like it's real.  In the long run, we all know to be a homeless person does not mean you do not matter, it means we are all cogs in a big wheel.  Those who are shelterless hold up the cogs for those of us on Social Security or other social programs, and on up the rung, an honorable courageous position.  So without the homeless, the council and board have nothing to stand on.  Who are really in control now!  

Anita Lafollette

HOMELESS/ERITERIAN: CONTEMPLATING A FUNERAL, Monday, 4th of July


HOMELESS/ERITERIAN:  CONTEMPLATING A FUNERAL

Yesterday, I went to the funeral for Cirak Tesfazgi, a 32 year old homeless man who was murdered last week in Santa Rosa.  I didn't know him but many of my homeless friends did.  He was asleep out doors near downtown Santa Rosa when he was apparently murdered by someone he didn’t know.

I'm a homeless activist and I thought it might comfort his family to know that the homeless community and its allies cared about him and were outraged that he, like so many others in this wealthy county, was sleeping without the protection of a locked door.

Thirty minutes before I left the house, I got a text that the family didn't want the word "homeless" used.  It hit me hard. I felt a righteous political anger on behalf of other homeless people.  I thought, “It's shameful to have homeless people in our community but it's not shameful to BE homeless.”

I took a deep breath and realized that some of my anger came from the Nebraska funerals of my young adulthood, which were religious and filled with platitudes.  I thought of my friend Carol who once counseled me,  "Try to look and feel your best, but even if you don't, go..."  I calmed myself down and went to the funeral.

Cirak was Eriterian. I knew he was black because the newspaper printed a picture, but I hadn’t taken in the reality of his background.  When I drove into the parking lot, I  wasn't prepared to find a large community of black people in suits and long dresses with large white hand-woven muslin scarves.  The service was conducted by the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Santa Rosa.  As I listened to the chanting and praying in words I couldn't understand, my thoughts gradually cleared.

Many of the women sat together.  Sometimes there was audible crying from that part of the room.  As I stood, with the chanting flowing around me, tears came to my eyes.  I thought about Cirak and other homeless people who have died this year in our county.  I thought about my friends who have died and felt how much I loved them.

The handout at the funeral said an auto accident had “greatly affected [Cirak’s] well-being and presented challenges in his life.”  Perhaps that was when he began sleeping on sidewalks.

Cirak's brother spoke in English and I've never heard anyone at a funeral, or any public event for that matter, be so truthful in both words and manner.

He said: I was the trouble-maker and Cirak was the one who did everything well.  I accept that and it's okay with me.  Every time I saw him, he would tell me that I'm doing the wrong thing and should do something different.  That was just how it was.
That was our relationship and it was a good one….

He said:  Cirak was always planning and his plans were good plans.  Lately, his plans were ridiculous because that’s how he was now, but they still would have worked, because his plans always worked. . .  and I have to say, because I am his brother, that there is nothing wrong in how he lived. . .

Near the end, one of the women laid her body across his coffin. After awhile, people began to encourage her to return to the seats.  She resisted.  More people came to comfort her and to tell her she had to return to her seat.  She resisted them.  She began shouting loudly and wailing.  She seemed to be saying, "My baby!  My baby!"  More people rushed to the front where she was.

Eventually, they took the coffin away.  This woman’s extreme grief meant, to me, that people knew Cirak should never have been homeless and that his murder was deeply wrong.  Between that and his brother's talk, I felt that whatever I had wanted to say, had been said.  It wasn’t in the way I would have said it and, perhaps the parts I didn’t understand would have caused me pain.  Who knows?  The customs were not my customs but it seemed they were, at least to some extent, another way to express the feelings I was feeling.

I’m glad I had the good sense and the anti-racist training to not rush forward with my righteous anger on behalf of homeless people.  I managed to notice that this community was one that I did not know.  I saw that they had come out in their best clothes for the funeral of a homeless member of their community.  We grieved together and that, in the end, seemed like a good way to honor Cirak.

----------------------
Some of Cirak’s poetry:

See you in the morning.


Adrienne

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Polling Opinion, Santa Rosa City Council Meeting, June 28th

Dear City Council Members,

Thanks for setting up the polling for Measure P and Measure O.

There's some encouraging results.  In particular,
1) the sense that people are more favorable to city government
& feel positive about city services.
2) that information that the Measure P extension only requires
a majority vote and a large majority agreed with the 1/2 cent
alternative as well as the 1/4 cent.

I am concerned that the questions related to a possible
$30 million dollar housing bond were not polled thoroughly
enough for an accurate assessment.

There seems to be a great deal of support for housing
and action on homelessness.  The low numbers of support
in the one direct question about a potential housing bond
seem out of proportion with these other findings.

Here's the details:
Housing & Homelessness are seen as the biggest City
problems (p. 6).  Housing  polled as a higher concern
than gangs and youth violence (p. 8).

Instead of asking about bonds to build more housing, the
question (p. 26) is about "projects and programs, helping
to increase the supply of housing options...."

No questions were asked about insuring there is sufficient
housing stock.

A question about providing "services" to make housing
more affordable drew 70% favorable response (p.12).

Providing "services" to reduce homelessness drew a 60%
favorable response (p.13).

I hope you will do more detailed polling on this particular
question.

Thanks, as always,
Adrienne
Homeless Action! member

795-2890

Public Bathrooms in Santa Rosa

Greetings!

At this week's meeting of Homeless Action!, there was a discussion of the accessibility of Santa Rosa's public bathrooms.  It was agreed that a public Google Map showing their locations, with YELP-like reviews recording availability might be useful in evaluating their compliance with public regulations.

Here is the Google Map.  To submit your evaluation, send an email to SR Public Bathrooms.


Friday, June 24, 2016

MailChimp Signup Form Post - Test

Greetings!

We are testing out a process to recruit more supporters of Homeless Talk.  If you are already signed up (How could you know?), you don't need to respond.  If, however, you want to help us, and are interested in learning more about Homeless Talk, please sign up by clicking on the link below.

Thanks.

Gregory


Homeless Talk

Friday, June 10, 2016

Homeless Talk, Frequently Asked Questions, June 10th

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1)  What is Homeless Talk?  What has been done?
Homeless Talk is a series of twenty-five or more facilitated open-ended small and large group discussions in community centers, clubs, congregations, farmers markets, and private homes.  It has begun tabling to ‘test drive’ the process and will begin formal discussions this fall.
We formed a Steering Committee to begin the background work.  That group has created a brochure and poster and generated an opening list of questions about homeless issues.  They are currently piloting this project via one to one conversations at various local events and venues.  They also continue to meet with individuals and groups to explain what Homeless Talk is planning and to ask for their help.


2) Who is spearheading this?
The volunteers on our steering committee are Gregory Fearon & Pat Kuta from Santa Rosa Together, Adrienne Lauby and Cynthia Stebbins from Homeless Action!, Cecile Querubin,Organization Development Consultant, Betsy Hall, member of West End Neighborhood, and Hrieth Anet Pezzi, R.N. and community educator and group process consultant.  Cynthia also brings her experience as a homeless woman to the group.
3)  Are there formal partnerships and if so, with whom?  Who are the people connected with these partnerships?
Our strongest coalition members are from Santa Rosa Together and Homeless Action! (see above for individual names)   We have asked the City of Santa Rosa to become a formal partner and hope to grow the coalition further over the summer.  We also have the support of Santa Rosa City Council members Combs and Schwedhelm.
4) Remind me how this information will be used?
A)  If you are responding to our questions about homelessness:
We will collate responses to these questions as well as other information from formal and informal meetings.  When we finish this round of meetings & discussions, we will prepare a report that will be released to the public.  Your name will not be used unless you give us specific permission.  We expect the Santa Rosa City Council, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Social Service Agencies, Business Owners, Neighborhood Groups and Individuals to find the information useful when issues of homelessness arise.
B)  If you are responding to questions about venue and cooperating organizations:  We will put whatever information you give us into an excel file that will allow us to follow up as needed in order to hold a specific Homeless Talk Conversation.


5)  What would ‘I’ be doing?  What are you asking of me?  
There are many ways you can support this project, by attending a Homeless Talk Conversation, engaging publicity, grant writing, food or drink donations or a tax deductible contribution. One of the most useful things you can do is to become a host for a specific Homeless Talk Conversation.   This job includes interfacing with the people who own the building where it will be held (if it is someone other than yourself), planning the date, inviting people, setting up the room before hand and cleaning up afterward.  Snack food is optional. Your group may provide food, or it may come from the Steering Committee.  Homeless Talk will provide a facilitator and format for the meeting, and pay any agreed-upon fees.  We will bring handouts and other materials, provide note taking, and help with set up and cleanup.  In addition, you will have a steering committee member who will work closely with you as you set up the event.


6)  Who will do the publicity to get people to the meeting I am hosting?
This is a collaborative task.
Homeless Talk will publicize every meeting in the newspapers and other standard outlets, as well as on our facebook page and to our e-mail list.  We will be publicizing the effort as a whole, while telling people which meetings are happening in the near future.  We may provide targeted publicity in your neighborhood or to specific groups of people.  We will put posters and other signage on the building the day of the event.
We hope you will invite neighbors, friends and family, as well as using the mailing lists of any organization that is involved.


7)  Is there money to cover the cost of any mailing I might do, or brochures?
There will be some money but we are still raising it.   And, by the way, in-kind and monetary donations are tax deductible.  When the time comes, talk with your steering committee representative about the specific amount you need and we will attempt to get it to you.


8)   Have there been group meetings about this?   If so, who are in those groups?
Since the Fall of 2015 the Homeless Talk Steering Committee held 5 open planning meetings this Spring which included a wide variety of people.  A partial list:  Anita LaFollette, Beth Dadko, Chuck Cornell, Chris Coursey, Georgia Berland, Ernesto Oliveras, Enrique Yarce Martinez, Hank Topper, Jim Leddy, Jennielynn Holmes, Jim Sweeney, Lawrence Lehr, Michael Gauss, Sheila Baker, Tim Carnahan, Tanya Narath, Jackie Brittain, Rene Riggs, Thomas Ells, Tom Schwedhelm…   Organizations and groups included the Junior College Student Government, several churches, the Santa Rosa School District, Sonoma County, Burbank Housing, City of Santa Rosa, homeless individuals, Homeless Action! and Santa Rosa Together.

9)  Are the city or county involved and if so how?
Staff members from Sonoma County attended our early meetings and helped us plan our initial strategy.  Both staff and Council Members from the City of Santa Rosa have also attended meetings and offered their encouragement.  We do not have a formal relationship with either governmental group at this time.


10)  Who will facilitate the conversations?
We are training a cadre of volunteer facilitators.  Many of them will come from Sonoma State University’s Organization Development Masters Program, where they have become skilled facilitators.  We hope to have two facilitators at each meeting as well as a note taker.  Please tell us if you would like to facilitate or know someone who could fill that role.


11) How will information be collected?
We are still working on this.  At the least, there will be note taking at each meeting.  In addition, we will have a brief survey at each meeting which will also be on-line.  We are looking into more intensive methods of collecting information.


12)  How many people will be at each conversation?
There is no requirement or minimum for a conversation.  We are hoping that each one will draw between 10 and 30 people but that will depend on you as the host, the sponsoring organization (if there is one), and the Homeless Talk publicity.


13) How long will a meeting be?
The formal meeting will last 90 minutes (1½ hour).  Please plan for 10-15 min. in the beginning to get people settled and try to keep the room available for 30-45 min. afterward for extended discussions and clean up.


14)   Will I have to speak and if so what will I be asked to say?
You do not have to speak if you don’t want to.  However, we would be honored if you would welcome those who come, provide any information about the building (location of bathrooms etc, and thank anyone who has helped you.   At the least, we would like to acknowledge you and your work during the meeting.


15) Is there a bias in these conversations?  If so, what is it?
Our bias is the radical belief that people can figure out their problems themselves, even large problems like homelessness.  We believe that bringing people in Santa Rosa together in groups with some help from a facilitator will provide the next set of solutions for the issues of homelessness.  We will talk about the issues that individuals bring into the room with them.  The facilitators will be trained to encourage everyone to talk and to exhibit no judgments.
We were inspired by speakers from “Everyday Democracy” last winter.
Find the Everyday Democracy Santa Rosa talk here:
http://santa-rosa.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=68d25a49-7912-11e5-b3ab-00219ba2f017


16)  What do I do next?
A)  Please take a look at your calendar.  Do you have some time between now and November when you could organize a conversation? (If so, see #5 above for what that entails.)
B)  Contact your prospective organization or building and find out whether they would help you by providing the room and any publicity.
C)  Find a couple of evening or weekend dates that work for everyone,
D)  Contact your steering committee representative to confirm a date and begin working on the details.


17)  Who do I contact if I have any questions?
Are you a committed host?  If so, someone from the steering committee will contact you within the next week to give you his/her e-mail address and phone number.  That person will begin working with you directly.

To volunteer to host or for any other questions, email HomelessTalk@gmail.com or leave a message at 707-583-1509.