Catholic Charities refocuses on services, successes
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 19, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.
One of Sonoma County's biggest homeless services providers is retooling its operations, partly to meet the demands of those who fund its operations.
Catholic Charities, which runs a battery of services including four homeless shelters in Santa Rosa, is “clarifying” its “focus toward client accountability and longterm solutions,” executive director Chuck Fernandez said.
In a transition not without its bumps, the agency has consolidated management of its homeless programs. And it has installed a new process to identify services that clients need, from classes in dressing for job interviews to drug or alcohol counseling to computer skills training.
Charts showing progressive steps toward the “outcomes” that donors to Catholic Charities want to see have been pinned to the walls for all to see. And new efforts are under way to collect data to show those goals are being achieved.
“We need to look at ways to do things better and differently than in the past,” Fernandez said.
Across the board at similar organizations, such changes are being driven by people and foundations who want evidence their money is getting results.
“There's a real desire on the part of funders to be able to demonstrate what changes happened as a result of their support,” said John Records, executive director of Petaluma's Committee on the Shelterless, the county's other major homeless services agency.
At the Community Foundation Sonoma County, Robert Judd, vice president for programs, said, “For a very long time, one of the main questions that would be asked of someone applying for money was, ‘How many people are you going to serve?'
“At some point, people began to say, ‘Well, no matter how much you provide, is it making a difference and how do you know it's making a difference?' ”
The foundation manages endowment funds and distributes about $250,000 a year to homeless services providers, including Catholic Charities, which last year worked with 3,393 homeless people.
Fernandez said while the needs of clients ultimately define the new direction, “we're evolving as our funders evolve.”
The changes at Catholic Charities, which spent about $1.6 million last year on homeless services, also are shaped by a loss of $40,000 in federal funding for the Homeless Services Center on Morgan Street, Fernandez said.
That has forced a cut in hours at the center, which has 10 beds and provides laundry, shower and mail services, to five hours a day from six.
The organization's shift, still in its early stages, has not been seamless.
The agency's longtime homeless services program manager, Nick Baker, was demoted to an hourly wage position as site coordinator of the Morgan Street center and of Nightingale, a shelter for clients who are seriously ill.
That has rattled many in a community where Baker has been a fixture for 19 years.
“I think it's wrong,” said Malcolm Andrews, a Nightingale resident. “We're all kind of wondering what the shakeup was, it doesn't make sense.”
“He's helped a lot of people,” said Robert Pese, who worked with St. Vincent de Paul from where he referred people to the drop-in center. “That's why people are upset.”
Baker, 67, who since has gone on leave, was reluctant to comment but confirmed the changes to his position and said, “I'm fully supportive of any direction they want to take.”
Fernandez, asked whether Baker's reassignment took place in the context of the agency's shift in focus, said, “When we made the change, we looked at how can we best service our clients, how can we best economize, and how can we best serve our funders.
“Nick is still involved in our drop-in center because of his real expertise in working with the chronic homeless, which I think is what he does best and does very well,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.