Tag: community

SanJoseInside – Op-Ed: Vote ‘Yes’ on A for Affordable Housing

This op-ed piece was originally published by SanJoseInside.com; written by Eileen Richardson/September 13, 2016

Measure A would authorize Santa Clara County to spend $950 million on affordable housing for the homeless and other vulnerable residents. (Photo via Facebook)

Measure A would authorize Santa Clara County to spend $950 million on affordable housing for the homeless and other vulnerable residents. (Photo via Facebook)

This November, Santa Clara County voters will have the opportunity to make history by voting “yes” on Measure A for Affordable Housing, a $950 million affordable housing bond that will create thousands of new affordable homes for hardworking families and vulnerable communities across Santa Clara County.

We all see on a daily basis that Santa Clara County’s housing crisis is real. The Bay Area is home to some of the wealthiest and most expensive places to live in the world, all while thousands of people are homeless and many thousands more live below the poverty line on the verge of homelessness.

This affects all of us. We’re worried about our friends, family, and community members being able to find an affordable place to live. And we’re deeply concerned about helping those who have already lost housing find a way to get back on their feet and gain access to a safe, healthy, affordable place to call home. Read more…

That homeless woman is someone’s mother

The little girl who drew this is about 10 years old. She approached our table at a community event where she immediately grabbed this question and a colored pencil. There were many questions on the table to choose from. As she began to draw, it became apparent what was weighing on her mind.

She was also accompanied by her younger sister and her grandmother, who is now raising the two of them.

Her grandmother spoke to us about her daughter’s struggles to get her life on track, to stay housed and employed. She was at a loss for answers, for her daughter has made many attempts but is continuously faced with adversity, including a recent divorce. The little girl interjected her comments as her grandmother spoke. We were surprised by her matter-of-fact tone. She was immensely focused on completing her drawing, but also wanted to share the facts with us.

We gave the grandmother info about one of our teams that we hope will fit the needs of her daughter. The girl’s younger sister tugged at her grandmother’s sleeve, demanding she was ready to go home.

“She’s autistic,” said the grandmother. “So there’s a lot going on.”

Even so, they did not leave until the little girl was done with her drawing. We talked with many people at the community fair that day, but none of them shared with us in the way this little girl had. In a split second, she forced us to see how her struggling mother was affecting her and her family. We, in turn, were struck by the reality that hit us. We talk to people every day who are homeless, but not often do we hear it from a child’s perspective.

When we talk about homelessness, we need to talk about all aspects. Homelessness impacts us all and it will take all of us working together to solve it. The next time you see a homeless person on the street, think to yourself, “That could be someone’s mother, or someone’s brother, or uncle.” Then do something, even if it’s simply looking them in the eyes and saying, “Hi.”

VOL. II – Brandon Davis, SF Project Director

By Brandon Davis, Project Director  of San Francisco

In a letter from Birmingham jail, Dr. Martin Luther King declared that…

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through tireless efforts…and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

Every Tuesday at 12:30 pm, in a modest Quaker Meeting Space, there’s a room brimming with the positive energy of homeless community members who have rejected inevitability, united in eagerness for self-transformation. Since Downtown Streets Team launched in San Francisco three months ago, we’ve had no shortage of folks determined to earn a life of stability, starting by volunteering on community beautification projects and working side by side with our direct service staff on their housing and employment goals. In fact, San Francisco is home to our quickest growing Team, built solely through peer-to-peer outreach and a high-spirited presence in the community.

It doesn’t take a Medical Social Worker to discern that my compassion for the unhoused community is deeply rooted in personal experience. As a first generation child of deaf adults (CODA) I experienced the marginalization of a community and felt its effects on my family. Through watching families in the deaf community struggle to find support, my empathy for others in similarly alienating circumstances has grown. My parents’ disability disqualified them for a majority of employment opportunities, dealing them major economical disadvantages. The social disadvantage of deafness often excluded our family from teacher conferences and medical appointments, which potentially negatively affected our health and well being. I’ve seen how being “othered” can turn marginalized communities even more inward and isolated into groups of only those who share their experiences.

Adversity has shaped our way of identifying with the world and those around us. One of the largest controversies within the deaf community is whether or not parents should procure operations to restore a deaf child’s hearing. The dispute stems from a deeply rooted pride that members of the deaf community hold in being subversive, and surviving the world without assimilating and developing strong culture in the face of marginalization. The same controversy transpires around adults who opt for progressive surgery after a lifetime of living in deaf subculture.

That might come as a surprise to most people. But while both hearing and housing might appear as objective, undeniable advantages to most, assimilating after a lifetime without them has to be some real earth-shattering shit.

Provided the offer to hear, for instance, my father would be offended. On the other hand, my mother who was born hard of hearing was recently giggling to me about testing a newly-released hearing device in a public restroom, asking me “is that what it’s always sounded like in there?”

I don’t blame my father. He carved out a life with what he had and learned to cope with the support of his community. Perhaps their difference in approach to assimilation can be traced back to the way their parents handled their deafness: my mother was taken to Northwestern University multiple times a week to participate in studies that trained her to interpret speech in the hearing world, completely opposite my father, who was shipped to a boarding school for the deaf at age five, where he spent most of his life until he was an adult.

Deaf adults qualify for disability benefits that pay a fixed income. My dad would never vilify someone who used those benefits in a time of need, but he made the decision to work and gained a strong sense of self-worth rooted in the contribution he was making. Shortly after I was born a deaf friend of my father referred him to the United States Postal Service who took a chance on him, paying five dollars per hour. He’s been there ever since, working an additional job in the stock room at Sears and taking less than a handful of sick days in his 40+ years. He retires this year!

I recently attended a meeting where I heard someone label an overwhelming percentage of unhoused community members “service-resistant” and I wanted to jump out the high-rise office window. Instead I ruminated on the reality that is our consistently packed room of unhoused community members, and imagined them with their middle fingers high in the air at the phrase “service-resistant.” I envision a similar response from members of the underemployed and undervalued deaf community. They are great at hand signs.

It felt like an unaccountable cop-out. It’s true there are individuals who take longer to engage but it’s rarely because they are lazy or disinterested in a secure, dignified life sheltered from the elements with access to a toilet and a belly full of food! It’s more probable that we’ve failed to mold our services to the needs of those members of the community that have been consistently failed by institutions.

Anyone who has given their best attempt to communicate with my mother can tell you that she’s sweeter than a Midwest lemon bar. But to this day, she doesn’t invest time engaging with people who won’t make the effort of meeting her and try to communicate with her at least partially on her terms. My parents don’t respond well to not being included in conversations that take place in the same room as them. They often worry conversations are being had about them, without them. It might sound paranoid, but I’d imagine it can be justified by their previous life experiences. Same rules apply to our Team Members: they show up for shift everyday, and tell us where they want to go from there. We don’t make decisions about them, without them.

That’s why I fell in love with Downtown Streets Team’s individualized, peer-run approach. A Team Member recently put it better than I ever have: …it’s like we are all in the same boat, and society for the most part may have counted us out, but you guys [Downtown Streets Team] haven’t counted us out, we didn’t count ourselves out, we’re still alive and kicking!”

Every morning the majority of our Team Members awake exhausted from a lack of shelter and security, ready themselves to the best of their ability, and join their peers in beautifying their community. If that isn’t work ethic, I don’t know what is.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to humans. We are each multifaceted and evolving. DST will be the first to admit we don’t have all the answers, but our Team Members are helping us find them. San Francisco is in a state of crisis, with over 6,500 human beings unhoused. The time is ripe and together as a Team accountable to one other, we’re inching further in the right direction everyday.

VOL. I – Just Say Hi

By San Francisco Staff

In one of the most innovative cities in the world, San Franciscans are moving quickly towards solutions for many of the world’s problems, yet we do so on a backdrop of severe homelessness: the imagery of people living in dire conditions on the streets has become the standard background of life in the City.

In our current state of affairs, it’s easy to stop seeing unhoused community members as people, and let them blend into “the homeless.” It takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves that homelessness is an experience, not an identity.

When it comes to an issue so large, in a place so heavily entrenched, it can be hard to know what to do. We’re asking folks to start by just saying hi.

Why would we ask people to just say hi?

In consultation with our unhoused participants, we asked them what the most distressing part about being homeless is. Their responses were not, as you might expect, struggling to find food or adequate shelter. Overwhelmingly our Team Members shared that the most demoralizing part of being homeless is the lack of acknowledgment from other people.

Over the next 10 weeks, our DST staff, Team Members, Graduates, close partners and others will contribute to a SF Downtown Streets Team Blog, presenting their unique perspective on what we can do to address homelessness in San Francisco. Team Members will share their life stories, detailing how they became homeless and how they’re rebuilding their lives. The blog will be a platform for unhoused community members and the people they work with to show readers that no one’s path to homelessness is the same. Telling our Team Members’ stories is paramount: we can’t change the face of homelessness without them.

Everyone has a part in ending homelessness in their community. The first step is to just say hi!

First mobile shower and laundry service for homeless launches in santa clara county

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 25, 2016

CONTACTS:
Cynthia Corpuz, Project WeHope                                                                                                             PH: (650) 779-4631| Email: ccorpuz@projectwehope.com

Julia Lang, Downtown Streets Team
PH: (650) 690-5551 | Email: Julia@streetsteam.org

 

FIRST MOBILE SHOWER AND LAUNDRY SERVICE FOR HOMELESS LAUNCHES IN SANTA CLARA COUNTY

SUNNYVALE, CALIF. — The first mobile hygiene shower trailer offering free showers and laundry service for homeless people living in Santa Clara County (SCC), called Dignity on Wheels (DOW), officially launches in Sunnyvale through the collaborative efforts of of Project WeHope, the organization responsible for its creation, Downtown Streets Team (DST) and Trinity Church of Sunnyvale on February 2, 2016 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at 477 Mathilda Avenue.

The official DOW ribbon-cutting event will feature keynote speaker County Supervisor Joe Simitian and a host of service providers, including Our Daily Bread, food from Whole Foods of Palo Alto, Lifeline Phones through Touch Wireless, Valley Medical Mobile Clinic, Sunnyvale Community Services, and Peninsula Healthcare Connection.

“Collaborating with organizations, such as Downtown Streets Team, is key to the success of Dignity On Wheels at Trinity Church,” said Pastor Paul Bains, President of Project WeHOPE. “We are all working towards a common goal. It only makes sense that we partner and pool our resources to help the homeless and underserved.”

According to the 2015 Point-In-Time Homeless Census there are 4,627 homeless people in SCC not living in shelters, which means they do not have regular access to showers, a key component to successfully finding employment and housing. Currently, there are only three locations throughout the entire county that provide showers on specific days.

“Something as simple as a hot shower and clean clothes can help restore hope and dignity,” said Greg Pensinger, project manager Sunnyvale Team.  “There is such a great need in our county for shower and laundry services for the homeless, we could not be more thrilled about the arrival of Dignity on Wheels.”

DOW will help alleviate the need for more services by providing up to 30 showers and 14 single loads of laundry during each four-hour session, every Tuesday from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Trinity Church of Sunnyvale located at 477 Mathilda Avenue. Plans to expand these services to other sites throughout SCC are in progress, including Palo Alto and San Jose.

Watch the video about Dignity on Wheels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD6C6DZYQmA 

RSVP to the launch: http://www.evite.com/event/034BHFJC2P3J3UOACEPFVGXPH4MKY4?utm_source=NA&utm_medium=sharable_invite&utm_campaign=send_sharable_link

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ABOUT PROJECT WEHOPE: Project WeHOPE is a 501c3 nonprofit agency based out of East Palo Alto, with a focus on helping the homeless adults and underserved families. In addition to Dignity On Wheels mobile shower and laundry trailer, Project WeHOPE also operates a year-round emergency and transitional homeless shelter. For more information, visit www.projectwehope.org.

 

About Downtown Streets Team: In 2005 the Palo Alto Business Improvement District conducted a survey of local business owners to determine the biggest issues facing downtown businesses. The group identified cleanliness and homelessness as the most pressing challenges. Downtown Streets Team (DST) emerged as result of the collaboration of local businesses, law enforcement, the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association and community leaders striving to make Palo Alto a better place to live and work. The model is simple: provide homeless and low-income men and women with the resources they need to rebuild their lives.  First, they join one of our teams and begin working collaboratively on beautification projects.  Meanwhile Team Members work together with our case management and employment services to find housing and a job. In 2011, DST expanded to serve the Coyote Creek corridor in San Jose and in 2012, launched a new project in collaboration with the City of Sunnyvale and Sunnyvale Community Services. In 2013, DST expanded to San Rafael. With franchisees elsewhere in California and Florida, and inquires from all over the country, DST is positioned to become a national solution to help end homelessness and restore dignity for those most in need. To learn more about the Downtown Streets Team or to make a donation, please visit www.streetsteam.org.

 

 

Class Rock Sock Drive

A Classic Rock Christmas

 

 

We would like to thank Campbell’s Heritage Theatre and the December People for hosting a sock drive for our Team Members!  Socks are the most needed and least donated item for people who are homeless.

See the press release below for more information about this fantastic partnership and chance for you to hear an awesome Class Rock Christmas, while also helping people who are in need of clean, dry socks.

PRESS RELEASE - Heritage Theatre Campbell_CLASSIC ROCK CHRISTMAS & SOCK DRIVE[1]

 

PRESS RELEASE - Heritage Theatre Campbell_CLASSIC ROCK CHRISTMAS & SOCK DRIVE[2] Classic Rock Sock Drive_Poster

We Partnered with High School Students to Clean Up Marin

 

 

Last Friday 36 students and 4 parents from Sir Francis Drake High School volunteered alongside 21 Team Members to cleanup a particularly littered stretch of Anderson Drive and Bellam Blvd. in San Rafael. The neighborhood is not only cleaner, it is safer – our Team safely disposed of 15 syringes in addition to several truckloads of trash. Thank you to our volunteers for making this possible!  A special thanks goes out to leadership teacher Kendall Galli who organized the event with Downtown Streets Team (DST) Staff. As always, DST loved the opportunity to engage the community and make it a better place.  Please contact Alena Nelson at alena@streetsteam.org  if you’d like to get involved with future events!

 

 

Group shot after the three hour volunteer event!

Group shot after the three hour volunteer event!

One of our Team Members, Nelson, working with a student and parent volunteer from Drake High School

One of our Team Members, Nelson, working with a student and parent volunteer from Drake High School

Another Team Member picking up trash with two student volunteers

Another Team Member picking up trash with two student volunteers

 

Full Circle Farm Project Launches

We have launched a new project with Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale – an amazing garden providing produce for low-income families and local restaurants.  But they need more manpower to keep up with demand, so our Team Members will be gardening there three days a week.  It’s a great collaboration between our Team Members and Full Circle Farm and you are invited to join us!

 

farm2

 

We had a great first day.  Melissa gave the Team a tour, let them pet and hold the chickens, and gave them small bags of tomatoes and peppers to take home.  We worked on clearing out the field we will be working in: field “B.” Melissa was thrilled with all that we got done in just a few hours.

 

FullSizeRender

As we close our second week, the Team can’t help but be filled with a sense of hope for the seeds we’re planting and the harvest yet to come.  Along with walla walla onions, leeks and kale, we’ve been hard at work sewing seeds that will one day blossom into sustainable lifestyles of dignity and purpose.  Our backs are sore from pulling weeds left by the last crop and our hands are dirty from digging trenches and mixing compost in preparation for this season.  We can’t wait to see what grows!

This is the first post of our Growing Hope Farm Journal.  Please check back to our news section often to see our weekly posts about our Full Circle Farm Project.