By Supervisor Susan Gorin
During the holiday season, many of us take time to reflect on how blessed we are – blessed and lucky to have our health, our home, our family – or to have the resources to address challenges when they arise. I know many of you, like me, also take this time to look around at those who are less fortunate and extend our kindness, our charity, and our time to those in need of a caring stranger.
This year, on December 7th, I was proud to participate in Social Advocates for Youth’s (SAY) One Cold Night fundraising event. Across Sonoma County, individuals like me, who care about our youth, are raising money and sleeping outside for one night in solidarity with the 515 youth in our communities who have to do so every night of year.
I was joined by Sonoma Councilmember Rachel Hundley, Gary Saperstein, Ryan Lely, and other Sonoma Valley sleepers, starting the night with a kickoff at the DreamCenter in Bennett Valley. Then we rode down to Sonoma Valley and spent the night on Arnold Field with just a sleeping bag and tarp. It was dry, but cold.
We are familiar with the incredible services provided by Sonoma Overnight Support, and indeed they always need our support. I’ve learned that here in Sonoma Valley, SAY is providing hundreds of hours of service EVERY WEEK to our youth. SAY staff are delivering mental health services at our schools and in our after-school programs, they are providing grief services, they are supporting youth with job searches and career opportunities, and they come every week to help our homeless youth access housing and life-saving services.
The One Cold Night event was hosted at six sites around Sonoma County. I’m proud to say that the Valley has set a goal to raise at least $25,000 for the most vulnerable youth in our community. We are well on our way, and I’m asking you to join us – whether you can give $25 or $250 or $2,500 – every gift matters – because every young person counts. Your support ensures that youth struggling in the Valley will have access to the care and support they so critically need. You can still donate. Thank you for helping to support services for our youth.
SONOMA COUNTY HOMELESS SYSTEM OF CARE
Over the years, Sonoma County and its cities have developed a patchwork of confusing decision-making processes to allocate funds to support homeless services throughout the County. Over the past year I have worked with Supervisor Lynda Hopkins and representatives from the Santa Rosa City Council to develop a more coordinated approach to analyzing service needs by our homeless population and allocating funding to meet those needs.
Based on the recommendations from a report commissioned by the Sonoma County Commity Development Commission (CDC) assessing the current state of the homeless systems of care, our system was redesigned, starting with the implementation of a new collective impact decision-making group. The Leadership Council and Technical Advisory Committee will meet for the first time next week. All meetings are open to the public. The Leadership Council is composed of two supervisors (Lynda Hopkins and myself), two Santa Rosa Councilmembers, one Petaluma Councilmember and representatives of the Technical Advisory Committee (25 members representing service providers, smaller cities and homeless individuals).
The first of many decisions considered by the TAC and Leadership Council will be to allocate funding to support homeless services from Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) from the state. The County is receiving $12.2m from the state; cities are applying for funding to improve homeless facilities, and service providers will be applying for funding for support for direct services and rapid rehousing proposals. This one-time funding is a healthy start, but it will not go far enough to support all of the needs for our vulnerable homeless population.
The Leadership Council will look to building partnerships with our business and philanthropy communities to augment the spending from HEAP and other funding sources coming to the cities and county over the next year.
Please read more in the media as these funding decisions are finalized in the next few months.
For more information and agendas for the meetings, please see Sonoma County Community Development Commission.
Happy Holidays everyone – and please generously support those organizations providing services to those most in need!