Reach For Home, one of north county’s nonprofit homeless services and advocacy organizations, is continuing its daily “street medicine” mobile unit with some new staffing and is also achieving almost-daily successes with securing shelter vouchers and service referrals for the north county’s shelterless population.
“There is a lot happening right now and it is moving in an excellent direction. The big news is we have more housing vouchers coming into the county than ever before,” said Reach For Home’s executive director Margaret Sluyk. Due to federal and state government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and rash of wildfires, local social service programs such as Reach For Home continue to benefit from one-time funding and government grants.
“A lot of times the funding we receive from federal and state resources is very specific and cannot be used in certain ways, which makes it difficult to move forward with solutions that make an impact,” said Sluyk. “This makes private funding so crucial to us. An example of this is our community health and wellness mobile unit, which would not exist without private donations.”
Reach For Home, formed in 2015 as North County Community Services, has an annual operating budget of $1.6 million and manages transitional housing units, an emergency shower and food program with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Healdsburg, shelterless program advocacy and education efforts, and, its street medicine and outreach programs. The nonprofit relies heavily on local individual donations to match its various local, state and federal funding. The organization has ongoing partnerships with the north county’s incorporated cities of Cloverdale, Windsor and Healdsburg.
Homelessness remains a major concern of Sonoma County residents, according to recent surveys of voters and others.
According to the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, there are just under 3,000 homeless people living in cars, camps and emergency shelters at this time. A big majority of this population are individuals, veterans and families who have lived most of their lives in the county. Of those totals, there are about 380 shelterless people in the north county where Reach For Home conducts its daily outreaches and program intakes.
Reach For Home is currently hiring for two significant positions on its outreach team. Sluyk said job applications are now being accepted for the director of street medicine position and for a new street outreach coordinator position. The director position is full-time and offers a negotiable salary and the coordinator position is half-time at $20 per hour.
Until recently, the director position was filled by Jacklyn Ramirez, who has moved on to a similar position at the Alliance Medical Clinic where she will focus more on substance abuse issues. She will continue to work closely with the Reach For Home team, said Sluyk.
“We are looking for people with a passion for building relationships and trust with the unsheltered community so individuals will be more willing to get the care they need,” said Sluyk, adding that bilingual skills are preferred.
The north county communities lack a year-round homeless shelter and face an ongoing affordable housing crisis. The county’s average monthly rent for a one or two bedroom unit is now $2,000, putting affordable shelter beyond the reach of almost 40% of the county’s population.
“We have had a few huge successes with some individuals and we know we need to keep going and help as many people as we can,” said Sluyk. “It is a very individualized way to help each person where they are and get the specific support to them they need.”