Building A Veterans Village in Santa Cruz County

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

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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 evan@thefreeguide.org

If you would like to donate money to this project, you can do so here: https://cfscc.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/create?funit_id=3442

Press so far:

Sentinel: https://www.santacruzsentinel.com/2021/11/10/santa-cruz-nonprofit-converting-san-lorenzo-valley-resort-into-vets-village/

Lookout: https://lookout.co/santacruz/civic-life/story/2021-11-11/homeless-veterans-village-santa-cruz-ben-lomond-community-foundation-veterans-day

KSBW: https://www.ksbw.com/article/santa-cruz-resort-homeless-veterans-support/38228232

SLV Press Banner: https://pressbanner.com/vets-village-provides-sustainable-housing-for-homeless-veterans/

Good Times:

Love Is Not In The Budget

I lost a client on Monday. He hung himself. He was 29 years old. A really sweet kid, who could have turned it around and had a real good life. Word on the street is that he was having relationship issues, and that’s what drove him over the edge. But undoubtedly, I’ll never know for sure.

Amidst my own heartbreak, when I was sharing my grief with some folks around me, someone asked me what was going on with this particular client. Though he had mental health issues, and substance issues, it seemed clear to me that what he needed was a family and a team in life. He had been in and out of foster care as a kid, then coerced into the military, then directly into homelessness from the military, and homeless ever since. At least that’s the story he told me.

The thing with homeless services in this county, as far as I have experienced them, is they are really focused. They are about getting people into housing.

After a year and a half of doing this, I have found that there are as many different reasons for becoming homeless as there are people who are homeless. But one constant, one universal, is a lack of social supports. Or, at least, a lack of social supports from people who are housed.

For instance, if I were to lose the ability to maintain my own roof over my head, I’m sure I would have a bevy of friends and family that would put me up for a short while until I was able to maintain my own roof over my head again.

People who are homeless either don’t have that support or don’t think they have that support anymore. Yes, some have mental health or substance issues that make it really hard for loved ones to care for them.

But why do people become homeless? Because their community no longer provides the supports they need. Or never did.

I wonder, if people who are homeless experienced being loved and accepted in their community, would they then be able to self resolve their homelessness? I wonder if we’ve been focusing on a symptom, homelessness, instead of the disease: lack of social support?

Every homeless service I have interacted with in this country is highly constrained in what it can do. Mine, for instance, can provide first and last month’s rent. We can subsidize rent in certain circumstances for a short period of time. We can help someone find a place to live. We connect people with other supports in the community, and help people stay organized and taking action. We can do this for most veterans who are homeless but not all. Not all veterans qualify.

We try to provide social support where we can, but that is not what we are set up to do. Love, community, and family are not in our program parameters. So we can’t focus on making sure our veterans have those things.

Love is not in the budget.

When I think about this veteran that is now gone, I think about how I and our team did the best that we could with him. We did the best that we knew to do, within the parameters of our program. And we lost him.

Some people will say that some people are just too far gone to be saved. Maybe. But he wasn’t.

If we were set up to make sure that our veterans had access to a reliable and safe community, I am sure he would still be with us. I’m sure that in ten years that, instead of remembering his death, we’d be celebrating his life with him. I’m sure that if we made sure that our non-veteran community members who are homeless also had access to reliable and safe community, we could accelerate the end to their homelessness as well.

I think it may be time to do that.

Project Homeless Connect and Veteran Homelessness in Santa Cruz

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

Talking About Homeless Veterans In Santa Cruz County

I gave an update on the Homeless Veterans situation to the Veterans Take Charge radio show this last Sunday. If you listen before June 2nd, it’ll be the episode right at the top of the page. Otherwise, it’s the one dated May 26th, 2019. Here’s the link: http://www.zbsradio.com/show_detail/id/81