Raising money for the services at the Veterans Village of Ben Lomond
Hey all, just want to let you know that my organization – The Free Guide – is having it’s first fundraiser this Saturday, November 5th. You can check out the details on Eventbrite. Below are the posters:
I’ve been relatively quiet on this blog recently. But since I’m being quoted in local press, I figure now is the time to share a little bit. In Santa Cruz County, it’s time to start shifting the conversation around homeless from complaining about it and reporting on the facts of it to talking about what it’ll take to actually end homelessness here.
In this article, that’s part of what I’m laying out in my quotes.
Yet, what it’s going to take to end homelessness here (or anywhere in this country) remains elusive. Even though I could be considered an expert on the topic, all I have to offer are educated guesses myself. What we need, at least in Santa Cruz County, is more refined data. With refined data, we can evaluate what sorts of programs are successful and make sure that we have programs to meet the needs of each person experiencing homelessness. To their credit, the county is coming up with a way to get more refined data on our homeless residents. With decent data, I think we can start to develop a plan to end homelessness here. If we have a plan, then we can evaluate each action that the community takes through the lens of that plan. Without a plan, we end up with what we already have: What seems to be (to someone who is outside of the decision making process) an unrelated series of decisions and events that may or may not lead to anything. Without a plan, we end up going from urgent issue to urgent issue, without necessarily thinking in the sort of long term way that’s needed to actually make a notable dent in this years long issue.
But data is also more than just data points. In order to have good policy, we need our people who are crafting policy to understand the problem outside of the raw data points itself. That’s why one of my organization’s goals is to provide education; about what it’s like to be homeless, what it’s like to be a service provider, and what challenges we all are facing as we grapple with this issue. We aim to provide this education to everyone, because every single one of us are in a position to influence policy.
You’re going to see some of that here on this blog, but if you want to be sure to see it more regularly you should connect with my org, The Free Guide, on social media. We are only at the stage where we have launched our socials, we have not mastered the art of social media at all. But as we get better at them, you’ll get a bunch more good content from us on this stuff:
If you are a member of the media and reading this, I’m interested in any project that can help the general public understand the realities of homelessness. I think it is truly going to take community wide action to address this issue. So, fire away with any questions or assistance you may need.
I am very excited that we are able to share the next step in this project that so many of us have been working on for so long. I’ll go ahead and post the press release here:
A proposal to purchase the former Jaye’s Timberlane Resort to provide permanent supportive housing for local veterans was accepted on November 10, 2021 in seemingly perfect preparation for the November 11th celebration of Veterans Day when the nation honors those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
This “Veterans Village,” a first for Santa Cruz County, will provide a permanent affordable housing solution for veterans and their families, complete with on-site support services, amenities, outdoor recreation, and a supportive community of peers.
The Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building Board of Trustees (Vets Hall) teamed up with Community Foundation Santa Cruz County and Santa Cruz County Bank to secure funding for the project. Community Foundation Santa Cruz County will provide low-interest financing for the project in conjunction with Santa Cruz County Bank. The Community Foundation has also launched the Veterans Village Fund with a $75,000 matching grant. All donations in November up to $75,000 will be matched by the Community Foundation in honor of Veterans and their service to our country. Donations can be made here: www.cfscc.org/vetsvillage
“Our veterans cannot afford to live in Santa Cruz and many struggle to get by on their current benefits. As we see more veterans come home from Afghanistan in need of support and community, the time is now to develop a solution for permanent supportive housing for our Santa Cruz County veterans,” said Chris Cottingham, Executive Director of the Vets Hall.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building (Vets Hall) hosted a 24/7 Emergency Shelter for 16 months through their C.A.R.E. (Community Aid Resource Effort) Program, funded in part by a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation. It was then that Cottingham discovered there are currently 179 veterans in Santa Cruz County that are eligible for supportive housing funds; many of whom are in poor temporary living situations or homeless.
The Jaye’s Timberlane property in Ben Lomond has a four bedroom, three bath home plus office with 10 additional cabins with their own kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms on nearly six acres of land. The turnkey property will be able to house 16 veterans and their families and Vets Hall will develop a phase two project to develop further housing capacity on the land for a total capacity of 40 veterans.
“This project is led by veterans for veterans,” said Cottingham. “And the village atmosphere will support community as well as self-sufficiency.” Cottingham explained that the project has been nearly two years in the planning and as it becomes a reality, “it will be a community effort, using local services, vendors, and workers.”
“It takes a village to support the Vets Village,” said Susan True, CEO of the Community Foundation. “Purchasing this property makes a significant step towards ending homelessness for our veterans and we’re honored to work with the Vets Hall, Santa Cruz County Bank, and generous community members to help solve local challenges together.”
Instrumental support on this project came from Veterans Village Committee members and supporters: Veterans of Forgeign Wars, American Legion, United Veterans Coalitions, and Support Services for Veteran Families; Santa Cruz Free Guide; Robert Ratner with the Housing for Health Division of Santa Cruz County; Front Street Paget Center; and Supervisors Manu Koenig & Bruce McPherson, realtor Paul Zech, Jack Tracey, Lynda Francis, David Pedley, Stoney Brooks, and Keith Collins.
About Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building
Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building is a 501(c)3 non-profit who since 1995 has committed to first supporting the Santa Cruz County Veterans and the community as a whole. In partnership with the County of Santa Cruz and the United Veterans Council, they operate the Veterans Memorial Building located in Downtown Santa Cruz. Their unique model of business allows them to use the Vets Hall facility and the revenue generated, to provide support and services for Veterans and their families in the Santa Cruz area. Learn more at https://www.veteranshall.org/
About Community Foundation Santa Cruz County
Since 1982, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has brought together people, ideas, and resources to inspire philanthropy and accomplish great things. The Community Foundation helps donors and their advisors invest wisely in causes they care about, to provide grants and resources to community organizations, and to offer leadership around key local issues. The Foundation manages more than $187 million in charitable assets and provides customized and tax-smart giving solutions that resulted in more than $21 million in grants in 2020. Thanks to generous donors, over $131 million in local grants and scholarships have been awarded locally since 1982. The Community Foundation seeks to make Santa Cruz County thrive for all who call it home, now and in the future. Learn more at www.cfscc.org
This project has come this far because of a community effort. If you have time, effort or resources to donate please feel free to comment or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
We now have an opening in this country, and this is what I would like to see
Since we are in the waning days of the Trump administration and the Democrats may take the senate as well (we’ll see what happens in Georgia), I’ve been thinking about what sort of opening could exist if those two things come to pass. One thing that I hope for is a retiring of an old form of leadership. A form that Trump embodied, but that certainly didn’t begin with him.
I think that, for most of my life, I’ve been looking for a certain kind of leadership. I’ve found it many times, but never where I wanted to find it. I have wanted to find it in our government leaders, in the leaders of our businesses and organizations, in my community. Instead, in my experience, I’ve found it at random. I cherish the folks that embody what I’m about to describe, and I have found them in the most unexpected places.
So what am I looking for, in leadership, that I am so rarely finding? Wisdom and patience are the first things that come to mind. To speak metaphorically; to be able to guide the ship without over-steering. People who feel the extent to which their employees and customers rely on them, and do their best to honor that commitment at all times. I am looking for people who are honorable. It’s one thing to understand and appreciate that some people get things done by backstabbing people and leaving people out in the cold. It’s another thing to do it. I’m interested in leaders that understand that any business or organization is also a community, and who honors that community. It’s also important that a leader honors the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of other people. If you are a leader, reasonable and respectable people will come to conclusions that are different than yours. Reasonable, respectable people will also make mistakes. The type of leader I’m looking for will respect that and will respect them. I’m looking for grace. In a leader, I want someone who can give others grace. Who can distinguish what someone means to do, and who can lift people up and help them grow when they fall. If I’m an employee, I’m looking for a leader who will protect me. If I’m employing, I’m looking for a leader who will protect the people they work with. I’m looking for leaders who ask questions; of themselves, of their staff, of everyone. People who are curious, and who know to rely on the expertise of the people around them. To extend the boat metaphor, I’m looking for leaders who do just guide. Who don’t get hung up in the color of the lifeboats, or the fuel mixture ratios in the engine. Leaders I’m looking for have delegated those decisions to people that they’ve empowered to make the right decision. I also want a leader to have enough knowledge and wisdom to know when they are being buffaloed. A great leader who otherwise always takes bad advice will inevitably look on blithely as their happy ship full of people sinks to the bottom of the sea. Yet, every leader will take and act on bad advice. I’m looking for leaders that can recognize their mistakes, acknowledge them, apologize to any aggrieved parties, and then correct course quickly.
A leader must also, always, be cultivating other leaders. Why? Because all this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I know that when I’ve been most effective as a leader, a large part of that formula has been having advisors and mentors of my own. A leader must have and continue to cultivate; people in their lives who give them guidance, help them process their feelings when they are upset, and people who are unattached to their work who can give them unvarnished advice and perspective. A leader needs to be delegating to people nearly all the time. Those people that are being delegated to need to all be on the same page. One day, the leader will have to delegate the entire operation of the organization they are leading. I think it’s important to have people around who can step up to the task, and that doesn’t happen without cultivating leadership.
A leader must want to be held accountable, and must be able to hold others accountable. We all make mistakes, and we all have errors in judgement. We all have impulses occasionally that aren’t the best. A leader that can be held accountable will have their own worst impulses held in check, and a leader that can hold others accountable will do the same for the others around them. For all of us, being held accountable is an opportunity to grow. Accountability is a gift… give that gift.
This is the sort of leader that I have always attempted to be. I cannot say that I have embodied these principles all of the time, but I can say that I have aimed to. What I am hopeful for, that in this new opening we have in our country, is that leaders of this kind can get more space to operate. I am hopeful that we all can see what good can be done from leading this way.
After months of work, we’ve finished making the Santa Cruz Free Guide into a searchable website for people who are experiencing homelessness – or simply anyone who could benefit from being connected to services. Check it out at santacruzfreeguide.org!
On Tuesday I made an appearance on Community Television of Santa Cruz County, talking about Project Homeless Connect and veteran homelessness. Project Homeless Connect is an event that brings every service that someone experiencing homelessness could need into one building on one day, so they can get a lot of their needs taken care of at once and get into housing more quickly. You can check out the website, and volunteer on the day of the event, here: phc-santacruz.org
Here is the link to the Community Television episode on YouTube.
You can also donate to my work, and come and volunteer with me and my team, by visiting santacruzhsc.org
Some of you may know that, for months now, I and a handful of other people have been working on building a truly comprehensive resource guide for people without housing who live in Santa Cruz County. Today we launched the new guide, as well as one of our new services: real time schedules of all the services in Santa Cruz County.
It has truly been serendipitous that this project has come together the way it has, and I am grateful for all the folks who have worked on it.
Also, this truly is just Phase 1 of this website and project. There will be more features and improvements coming in future months.
Here is the announcement email that went out today to service providers throughout the county:
Attached please find easy-print, double-sided, county-wide resource guides to free services serving people experiencing homelessness in Santa Cruz. Please feel free to utilize and print these guides for yourself, your organization, your clients, friends, or neighbors in need.
We are pleased to announce the formation of The Free Guide, a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to maintaining a permanent local hub space for hosting this information. We know resources in our county are limited, but information need not be.
We are dedicated to keeping information free and accurate, up-to-date, local, and easily accessible. Feel free to take a look at www.santacruzfreeguide.org
Check our More Resources page for downloadable fliers. We’ve got a leaflet on the new Santa Cruz Winter Shelter program, Watsonville Winter Shelter program, Smart Path access points, the Warming Center’s Storage program and more.
Check the new Calendar Resource page for carefully maintained google calendars listing service times and locations. Feel free to upload these to your smart phone or mobile device.
Is your organization, resource, or service listed correctly in the web and/or print versions of the guides? Is there something we’ve left off that you think should be included? Space is limited in the print guides, but we can copy-fit or we may be able to include additional info on the web pages. Do let us know at email@example.com
And of course if you wish to be removed from our list to receive updates, simply respond with “Remove me” in the subject line.
The Free Guide Team
(I’m not actually attaching the files here, so you can go to the website and see what it’s all about)
Providing a taste of what it can be like to be homeless
The full quote is “Think about what it might take for you to become homeless. The money you’d have to lose, the job you’d have to lose, the relationships that would have to break down. There are thousands of people in this county who have gone through that trauma.”
a facilitation framework for running meetings that gain consensus among the participants
Below is a facilitation framework for running meetings that gain consensus among the participants. This is a living document, so it will be updated as need be. It is important that each participant at a meeting like this be committed to doing the work it takes to reach consensus.
-At least one day prior to meeting, request agenda items from participants.
-At least one hour prior to the meeting, send all the agenda items to all of the participants in order of priority.
-At the beginning of the meeting, record who is present.
-One person speaks at a time.
-Ask the group if they agree with the order of the agenda items, or if they would like to move anything forward. Let those who want to move items make their case, as well as those who don’t want to move items make their case. Make sure those who have opinions on the agenda items have fully stated their case. As the facilitator, check in with the group to see if everyone agrees on changing the agenda. If they do not agree, request that they agree with a proposal that halfway meets everyone’s stated intentions. If there is not agreement on some sort of compromise, it is time to stop the action and have a deeper conversation about what the participants are up to in the meeting.
-Begin the meeting, with the first agenda item.
-In this sort of meeting, it is important to have open conversations regarding each item. Allow for each participant to share their views on each item to their fullest extent, while being mindful of the time. Record all promises and actions to be taken. If there is a stalemate, ask bigger questions to move the conversation forward. Is this something that needs to be decided now? If we don’t agree on this, what do we agree on? Do we all agree that this is an issue that needs to be resolved? The role of the facilitator is to move the conversation to consensus, and this ability is more an art than a science. Also, to do so responsibly, the facilitator must also communicate their opinions regarding the topic of the conversation. Move on to the next agenda item when all present are in agreement that it is time to move on.
-Once all agenda items have been addressed, decide on a date, time and location for the next meeting.
-End the meeting
-Send all notes of promises and actions to be taken to everyone who has a stake in the meeting.