The famous poet, Maya Angelou once wrote, "I long, as does every human being to be at home wherever I find myself." This statement is so much more poignant during the holiday season. While many of us are caught in the hustle and bustle of planning, decorating, and gift-giving, so many of our neighbors have found themselves homeless and determined to find homes by next Christmas.
I met one of these very neighbors who after a very painful divorce, found himself unemployed and homeless all in the same year. This previous Palm Desert resident turned to alcohol for solace and in very short order realized that unless he made changes, his future seemed grim.
This gentleman, a writer, made his way to a local library to research the location of a shelter for help. He found Roy's Desert Resource Center located in North Palm Springs, named after the late Supervisor Roy Wilson. Upon arrival, this client was able to find the resources he needed to pick up the pieces of his life, utilize his skills to find some freelance work, and move into transitional housing. "I give credit to Roy's and Jewish Family Services because without their help, I wouldn't be here right now," the very grateful client reported. His journey took time and perseverance. It also took the caring hearts of case workers, nurses, and resources made possible by the annual contributions of the jurisdictions in the Coachella Valley.
Curious, I spent part of an afternoon at Roy's. I was intrigued having met this client and encouraged by his positive outlook on the future. I also wanted to better understand how the process of homelessness to finding a home worked. A person can sit through committee meetings and listen to hours of discussions, but until you see how the process works first hand, or hear an actual account of how someone has been helped, true perspective is difficult to find.
I first met with Linda Barrack, Director of Riverside County Operations of Jewish Family Services of San Diego, and it was in short order that I learned how the safety of all of the clients is taken very seriously. All clients undergo a background check immediately upon arrival. They are also assessed for potential special needs, including medical needs that could be provided by nursing staff. Once settled, new clients are introduced to their case manager and the journey to recovery begins.
Case managers, like Patricia Meredith, assist clients in obtaining documentation if need be. Surprisingly, many of the clients need to get copies of social security cards, needed for employment, or driver's licenses needed for identification by future employers. Also sought for clients, are financial opportunities and benefits that may assist them in affording a home. Case managers assist each client with drafting a housing plan - just what steps are going to be needed to accomplish their plan. Budgeting classes are given to clients as well as education to address any medical needs the clients may have.
Also of interest to me was how clients seek medical assistance once they arrive at the shelter. Through the generous contributions of resources like Desert Healthcare District, Riverside Public Health Nursing, and Health to Hope Clinic, clients receive the vital health care services they need. Some of the clients have not seen medical professionals in years and are able to find the resources to treat ongoing health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. In speaking with Margarita Zaman, R.N., she "wants the community to know that we are offering health assessment to the clients of Roy's Desert Resource Center." This is done by "making sure of the health status of clients." Referrals are made to health clinics and resources are found to acquire medications and other medical needs. Ms. Zaman also wanted folks to know that there are doctors that visit, donating their services and time to clients a couple of times a month. The Desert AIDS Project conducts health and wellness classes for the clients as well.
We, of course, have access to "the numbers"...numbers of new clients, numbers of reoccurring clients, and numbers of adults, children, and seniors. A number that often times goes unnoticed, is the number of veterans, disabled individuals, or families that find themselves homeless and seeking assistance at the shelter. Often deceiving, the numbers, when lower than usual, do not necessarily show the number of clients on their way to transitional or permanent housing, nor do they show the cycle that is referred to as the "softening of the heart". Especially during the holidays, families sometimes assist clients or their family members temporarily, by allowing them to stay in their homes for a limited time. After the holidays the clients find themselves without a home once again.
I was lucky enough to meet with one of the cooks at Roy's. Dennis performs miracles with the menu! Daily menus are prepared and rotated on a monthly basis. The meals are enhanced by donations received on any particular day. Dennis expressed gratitude to local businesses like Fresh and Easy, Panera Bread, Starbucks, and the Palm Springs Farmers Market for their daily donations of pastries, coffee, fruit and vegetables, and various other food items. Especially appreciated, are the students at Raymond Cree Middle School, who bake cakes and donate them to a few times a month! What a lesson in charity for our young people! During the Thanksgiving holiday, Coco's donated over twenty pies for the clients and a couple of hundred pounds of food was gratefully received from Windermere Realty.
During the tour, I learned that eye glass clinics are held for the clients. Visits are made by members of God's Closet, who donate gently worn clothing. Also appreciated are the monthly donations of new underclothes and socks by St. Paul's Episcopal Church. St. Paul's is also responsible for serving dinner on Mondays. The Mission Team from United Methodist Church of Palm Springs has been hosting luncheons for the clients on Thursdays since June of 2012 and continues to generously donate this service today.
As I drove away, happy to have met the staff members that make the successes happen, and the very grateful client on his way home from the interview, I was most grateful that the services of Roy's Desert Resource Center are available to the members of my community - of our community. And as we prepare for the holiday season with our families, we ask you to remember those in need.