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:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

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


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.