Hope Solutions Homepage Newsletter 2020

Page 1

Formerly Contra Costa Interfaith Housing

e g a p e m Ho Summer 2020 Newsletter

Hope Solutions’ Community Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic


midst the coronavirus pandemic, Hope Solutions’ critical work of providing permanent housing solutions and supportive services to homeless and at-risk families and individuals continues and is more important than ever. During the health crisis, our staff has increased our outreach services and continues our essential work of helping homeless households move into safe, affordable housing, because, especially during a pandemic, everyone is safer in homes than on the streets. From March to May, Hope Solutions helped move more than 60 homeless households into permanent housing — a 19% increase over the same period last year. At the beginning of the pandemic, our community responded to our immediate appeal via Emergency Funding for COVID-19 and GivingTuesdayNow campaigns.

These efforts brought much needed resources to staff working double-time and allowed us to strengthen partnerships with local food pantries, add virtual mental health services, and provide critical access to online learning tools for our residents. Overall, Hope Solutions raised over $55,000 from individuals, local businesses and foundation partners to meet emergency needs. We have revised our policies and protocols to continue to house and serve all members of our population and work to creatively meet their needs, while ensuring the safety of staff, clients, residents and landlords. Our outreach for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies was met with an outpouring of support from our responsive donor community. Donors collected “RESPONSE” CONTINUES INSIDE >

Financial and Health Aid

Food Insecurity Help

Youth Programs

• We’ve helped residents apply for unemployment and stimulus support, and increased rent subsidy payments.

• We built partnerships with local food pantries and created our own channels for purchasing and safely delivering food to vulnerable residents.

• We’ve ensured every family has access to technology to support online learning and case management outreach (from internet access to equipment).

• We supplemented these highly impacted community resources by directly purchasing and delivering groceries for our most vulnerable residents.

• We adapted the Youth Enrichment Program aka Homework Club to include virtual services so that our youth academic progress continues during the pandemic.

• We delivered over 4,000 pounds of food to our vulnerable families and single adults across the county.

• We offered online tutoring for school-age youth and online early childhood enrichment sessions to preschool-aged children.

• We provided wellness care packages for residents who may be symptomatic, and helped residents monitor symptoms. • We ensured our residents feel connected by providing remote supportive services: parenting groups, tri-weekly interactive activities, game and movie nights. • We provided virtual mental health services to individuals and families.

ee s to e l b a g in Hope isebise light despite all that therkness. the dar — Desmond Tutu


OVID-19 and systemic racism have had a disproportionate impact on our residents and clients. As these historic events unfold, we have an opportunity to chart a new course. Decisions we make now feel weighted with future implications. Will we find the way in this moment to ensure safe, affordable housing for all? To provide the resources and support to help people heal from years of trauma brought on by housing insecurity, systemic racism, intergenerational poverty, food insecurity, and lack of quality health care? I dare say yes — we can, and we are rising to that challenge. Three months ago, we announced our new name as Hope Solutions. We chose this name after months of intensive deliberation. I have been told by dozens of people how perfect the name is. “Bringing hope — that is exactly what you guys do” is a refrain I have heard over and over again. From providing housing, mental health supports, creative resources for kids and just everyday kindnesses — our team inspires hope every day. Over the last few months, I have also been profoundly moved by the way our community and donors have showed up for our staff and residents. After a sleepless night spent worrying about how I was going to equip our team with PPE so they could continue to safely move people into housing, a guardian angel called to say he could provide 2,000 non-medical masks. When I worried about our students’ access to distance learning, our volunteers stepped up to provide laptops and virtual tutoring. When food scarcity became an increased worry and the resources of our food partners were strained, another angel made a major gift that allowed us to procure and deliver our own food to high-risk residents. Our Board Chair, Carol Gilliland, Executive Chef of A Loveable Feast even prepared and delivered wonderfully fresh meals to families in our programs. I am deeply humbled by the outpouring of support from our community, the tireless work of our team, and the perseverance of our residents throughout the past few months. We’ve highlighted some of this in the next few pages, including ways to get involved if you are moved to help. With gratitude and hope,

Deanne Pearn Executive Director dpearn@hopesolutions.org 925-944-2244

HOPE SOLUTIONS’ work to heal the effects of poverty and homelessness through permanent housing and vital support services is an antidote to both the public health crisis and the institutional racism that has worsened its effects on the communities we serve. Our country’s history of systemic racism has led to under-resourced communities, limited homeownership opportunities and growing wealth gaps for Black Americans, causing acute housing insecurity and homelessness. Contra Costa County’s 2018 Race and Ethnicity Equity Assessment found that African Americans comprised 40% of consumers in the homeless service system, despite representing only 10% of the overall population in the County. In this moment of national reckoning, Hope Solutions recognizes that the hard work of racial justicerighting historic wrongs- is a shared responsibility. We are committed to listening and learning from all of our staff and clients about how we, as individuals and as an agency, can be stronger allies and leaders for justice.

REP Program Emerges As a Force for Affordable Housing Policy Change


ince its launch in the fall of 2018, Hope Solutions’ Resident Empowerment Program (REP) has sharpened its focus. REP is a resident-led advocacy program that empowers affordable housing residents to advocate for the creation and retention of affordable housing and supportive services. REP Leaders are trained in public speaking and advocacy strategies, enabling them to speak truth to power. Original REP members William Goodwin, Lori Goss, and Irma Bodden’s resilience and strength propelled the REP program to public prominence in its now two years of existence. The REP program was started to elevate residents’ voices within Hope Solutions. However, after expressing an interest in policy advocacy, the three original REP members hosted a panel at the annual Contra Costa Housing Summit in June of 2019. Since then, the purpose of REP has expanded. “We’ve evolved,” says Irma. “We realized if one of our stories can help somebody get themselves into affordable housing, we have to tell it.” William agrees, “After that Housing Summit, we were no longer REP members. We were REP leaders. We knew our capabilities. We came into our own then.”

awareness to how they, and so many like them, were failed by the lack of affordable housing.

The REP program’s growth is most recognizable in the addition of a new REP leader to the team, Nina Jorgensen, who joined in March 2020. Nina moved into Garden Park Apartments in Pleasant Hill in January 2020. Nina experienced the same system failures as so many Hope Solutions residents: “It all feels so hopeless when you’re searching for housing. Thank God for Hope Solutions because looking for housing and services felt like a lost cause.” New to both Hope Solutions and her Irma Bodden own housing, Nina quickly began advocating for those who still did not have a home. When we feel secure, it is easy to forget about those still in need. As Nina explains, “That’s why I’m a part of this. I want to help others to stop putting that blame on themselves. You don’t have to blame yourself [for being unhoused]; everything is actively working against you.” Her William Goodwin desire to advocate for those who may be blaming themselves for their lack of housing fit seamlessly into the program.

With all the growth surrounding the program, it was imperative that the team continue their Since then, the REP program has gained work despite the chaos caused by COVID-19. The recognition for its important policy work. REP pandemic opened a new way of working for the leaders have presented to the Contra Costa County REPs. It forced people to look at the world through Lori Goss Board of Supervisors in support of Homeless the eyes of a REP leader. “When COVID-19 came, Awareness Month, met Senator Steve Glazer and everything we were talking about was exposed; Assemblymen Jim Frazier to express support for the homelessness situation, people not being the historic 2019 Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482), able to find housing, how difficult it was to afford and most recently advocated on the assembly floor housing,” says William. While the REP program for AB 3300 in hopes of passing much-needed had been built on face-to-face interactions and housing funding in California. public-facing speeches, the REP leaders felt it was their duty to use the shelter-in-place order “I’ve gotten involved in civic engagements, stuff and new awareness of the critical link between I would’ve completely overlooked [without the Nina Jorgensen housing and health to reinvent the way REP work REP program],” says Lori Goss. Lori became a REP is done. In an act of care for both themselves and their because it was a way to supplement her SSI income for her communities, REPs began advocating virtually. Using online and her kids, “but as I started working, I was realizing and meeting forums such as Zoom, “We saw that we could be recognizing that people were actually listening to what I in many places at once to gather more information and had to say. People were walking away with a different kind sharpen our tools,” says William. “We have our hands in so of thought.” many different pies now that we would not have been able Irma says she came to the same realization. “The to before. It makes us more knowledgeable and stronger as REP program opened my eyes to how much my voice a team. And we all feel empowered because each [REP] is is needed,” she explains. However, REP leaders don’t doing something different.” want personal recognition. Instead, they want to bring “REP PROGRAM” CONTINUES NEXT PAGE >

Record-breaking Success for Hope Solutions’ 2020 Gala


ope Solutions’ 12th Annual Gala, Ruby Slippers — There’s No Place Like Home, hosted 325 supporters on February 9, 2020 at the Blackhawk Auto Museum, raising $388,000 to support our mission to benefit local homeless and at-risk families and individuals in Contra Costa County. Co-hosted by William Goodwin, Hope Solutions’ Resident Empowerment Program (REP) leader, and Carol Gilliland, Hope Solutions’ Board Chair, guests were treated to a fabulous dinner, exciting silent and live auction items, and energetic music of David Martin’s House Party band. The star of the evening was Teri, our resident speaker, who told her personal story of escaping abuse, depression, and addiction to reunite her family and build a path toward hope and success. Teri was supported by her husband and daughter, then a senior attending a private high school on scholarship with a 4.3 grade point average.

We are so grateful that we were able to host our highly successful event about a month before the COVID shelterin-place order, as many organizations were forced to cancel, postpone, or re-envision their annual fundraisers. We also want to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Ruby Slippers committee and Board of Directors for their creative leadership, and to everyone who made the night such a success. Now it is time to mark your calendars once again for Ruby Slippers — There’s No Place Like Home on Saturday, February 27, 2021. For the 13th annual fundraiser, the Ruby Slippers Committee is planning an innovative virtual event to ensure it will be fun, safe, and accessible for all of our supporters. To get involved with the planning committee, please contact Carrie Veurink at cveurink@ hopesolutions.org.

Co-hosts William Goodwin and Carol Gilliland kicked off the evening (left), Roger Blumer, Jeff Morrow, Susan Blumer, Debbie Burrows, and Antoinette Valla pause for a picture in front of the new Hope Solutions logo (center), and Derrick Butler and Mario Goins enjoying the evening (right).



Despite the strength they display, the REPs do hard work, which can be both mentally and emotionally exhausting. Yet, Lori, Irma, Nina, and William continue to advocate for affordable housing in the face of COVID-19. “I was on the waitlist for six years suffering with my kids. And nobody really cared,” says Lori. This feeling motivates the REP team. They remember what it was like to feel like nobody cares, so they advocate, ensuring no one has to feel like that again. “If I can help, by all means, I will,” Irma explains.

and refurbished laptops to allow our students to participate in distance learning. Donations of art supplies, games, and puzzles provided our youth with additional learning modalities to supplement their online learning. With the support from our dedicated community, unwavering commitment from staff and leadership, Hope Solutions continues to provide housing and critical support services, at a time when the most vulnerable in our community need the support the most.

Gertrud and Chuck Jeffries


or Gertrud and Chuck, volunteering at the Hope Solutions Lakeside Homework Club is a chance to make an impact on the community and especially the local students. The tutoring opportunity was presented to them by their faith community, Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church. As an introvert and someone who cares deeply about working with kids, Gertrud welcomed the idea of working one-on-one with students. For the past two and a half years, she and Chuck have met with students at Lakeside’s clubhouse to support and encourage a love for learning. “When a student reads to me and all of a sudden, they graduate from fighting to read one line, to wanting to read a book, that is a special moment,” shares Chuck. Gertrud adds, “if I’ve made the difference for at least one student, then I’ve done my job.” Chuck frequently tells the students that they are capable of going to college if they want to. He hopes that when the kids are older, they will look back and remember being tutored and inspired to learn. The Jeffries’ consistently go the extra mile for the kids. During the school year, they offer “Fun Friday” activities and support our summer camps and always make themselves available when we ask for help. Although the impacts of COVID-19 have temporarily shuttered the in-person tutoring, the Homework Club volunteers transitioned to a virtual format within a couple of weeks of the shelter-in-place order, to connect with and tutor the students. “Hope Solutions is doing an amazing job switching gears,” shared Gertrud, “the students may have gaps in learning to surpass, and the Homework Club is more important than ever.” Transitioning to Zoom and video communications can create obstacles to making a personal connection, but volunteers like the Jeffries have been there when our students need them most. During COVID-19, the Jeffries typical once-a-week volunteer schedule increased to daily, to ensure any students who wanted to be tutored would have support.

Gertrud and Chuck volunteering at Lakeside Homework Club.

Hope Solutions’ Youth Enrichment Coordinator, Jessica Ahlering, shared, “During this pandemic time, the Jeffries were the first volunteers who offered to help me with the virtual Homework Club. They gave me tips such as how to use the ‘break-out room’ feature in Zoom. Since the first day we started the Zoom Homework Club, in April, they connected to our virtual session every weekday through the end of the school year.” The Jeffries also shared information and websites for parents and kids, learned about Google classroom, and provided families extra help when needed, even when the Homework Club finished for the day. Jessica continues, “for the Jeffries, it is vital to help our community and help address the struggles facing our families. Gertrud sent a letter to the Superintendent at Mt. Diablo Unified School District, advocating for our [Lakeside] kids.” During the virtual Homework Club, the Jeffries discovered that many students lacked the technology necessary to pivot to virtual learning. They supported Hope Solutions’ effort to ensure that every family can be successful by donating funds towards the purchase of Chromebooks for students. Says Gertrud about the students, “When the students talk about making plans for their future, and they’ve got the mindset that education is a way out of the cycle of poverty, that is a highlight for me.”




399 Taylor Boulevard, Suite 115 Pleasant Hill, California 94523 hopesolutions.org hopesolutionsnonprofit


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Furnishings Program

Spirit of Giving

Homework Club

Help furnish an apartment and make a home. Our furnishings program provides formerly homeless families with the necessary basics of a dignified, clean, and beautiful home. Help by donating needed items or become a project volunteer. Please note that donations are accepted based on the availability of Hope Solutions’ storage capacity.

It’s hard to believe but we are already preparing for another successful season of Spirit of Giving! We need YOUR help in making this coming holiday season a memorable occasion for the vulnerable people we serve. Profiles of each family or individual will be provided, along with a wish list and guidelines on how to help. We match residents and donors to ensure that each resident receives something special for the holidays. Profiles will be ready by end of September.

Help us set students up for success by becoming a Homework Club Volunteer at one of four sites; Pleasant Hill, Concord, Bay Point or Pittsburg. Whether we can return to work virtually or in person, homework tutors help the students in our program with their math and reading skills. If interested, we ask for a commitment to volunteer one afternooon per week for the school year.

If you are interested in learning more, please email Sandibel Arnold at sarnold@hopesolutions.org. We hope to hear from you!