Reach for Home staff, Healdsburg city council members and city staff celebrated the opening of Reach for Home’s new navigation center at the Victory studio apartments with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the site on Thursday, Oct. 28.
The navigation center, which is located at the Victory apartments property at 308 East Street, will serve as a resource center for unsheltered individuals.
“It’s a place where unsheltered individuals can come, they can get access to all of the services they might need, CalFresh, jobs and coordinated entry. We have computers they can use so they can look for jobs, use email etc. It’s also available to our tenants here at the Victory apartments,” said Margaret Sluyk, the executive director of Reach for Home.
There’s a phone charging station, mail service and lockers available for use. People can also get help with looking for housing, setting up an email account or writing resumes.
Sluyk said they’re looking for book donations to start a small library of self-help books and other helpful reads.
The City of Healdsburg owns the Victory property and Reach for Home manages the apartment site and program. The Victory site provides both supportive housing and rapid rehousing.
The aim of rapid rehousing is to move people quickly to a point where they are able to afford a market rate home. Those who are in a rapid rehousing program have a rent subsidy that is steadily decreased as self-sufficiency grows.
For the ribbon cutting ceremony, people were able to take a peek inside the navigation center and toast to the completion of the project.
“I wanted to quickly raise a glass in celebration to the City of Healdsburg, the city council, the great partnership Reach for Home has with them and the great energy that we have going right now. We submitted an application and we’re crossing our fingers that we might have an actual homeless shelter in Healdsburg coming and we’re excited about that possibility,” Sluyk said.
Last month, the Healdsburg City Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the city to submit a joint application with Reach for Home for Project Homekey, a $750 million state program that launched last year with the goal of helping local communities rapidly acquire hotels, motels, commercial buildings and other housing types to rapidly house people experiencing homelessness during the COVID pandemic.
Reach for Home and the city would like to use Homekey funds to purchase and create a 21-unit temporary housing program with support services for Healdsburg’s chronically homeless people at the L&M Motel on Healdsburg Avenue.
According to Healdsburg Mayor Evelyn Mitchell, the city should know in about 44 days whether they’re awarded the funds. The city is asking for $5.2 million to $5.4 million for capital costs, and $352,800 per year for three years for operating costs.
The goal of the site would be to get people off the street and into the county’s system of care and during their interim stay, case workers would help identify more permanent housing solutions.
“Homelessness is probably the most vexing challenge we face in local government right now. There are not a lot of success stories, so it can feel daunting and it can feel hopeless sometimes even when people are really committed to being compassionate and helpful in finding real solutions for people experiencing homelessness,” said Healdsburg City Manager Jeff Kay. “With that said, with everything I’ve seen and this project and the work that we’re doing, I actually feel really hopeful right now. I think this is a great milestone and we have momentum and a great team of folks who are working really hard to do something good.”
Kay thanked the current city council and councils of years for passing the project and he also thanked Reach for Home and their staff and Stephen Sotomayor, the city’s housing administrator.
Sotomayor has been with the city for about three years. After leaving the U.S. Army at the rank of captain, Sotomayor worked in Fresno and in Los Angeles on homelessness and housing.
Also in attendance for the ceremony was the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce, Vice Mayor Ozzy Jimenez, Councilmember Skylaer Palacios and Councilmember Ariel Kelley.
Sotomayor had the honor of handling the large pair of scissors for the ceremonial ribbon cutting –Mitchell shared a few words about the center and the significance of its completion.
“The navigation center at the Victory studio apartments is such a huge step and it has been a long time in coming. Funding for the project was made possible by the County of Sonoma’s Community Development Commission, who granted the city $500,000 in federal home investment funds, and the homeless emergency aid program known as HEAP of the state of California,” Mitchell said.
“This really adds a much needed addition to the investments the city has been making over the last many years to shelter our homeless population and give them services. It gives them the ability to be in a private and safe environment,” she continued.
Additionally, through another city partnership with Burbank Housing and Reach for Home, the city will be able to expand the number of supportive housing at Victory from 11 units to 26 over the next few years.