Disappearing demand is never a worry in Nick Baker's line of business, least of all during this economic malaise.

Just before Christmas, the homeless shelter at Samuel L. Jones Hall had to bump up its capacity to accommodate people fleeing the rain, said Baker, program director for Catholic Charities, which runs the shelter for the city.

Not that demand tapers off much the rest of the year. The agency also runs the downtown Santa Rosa Homeless Services Center, where 2,000 people a year do laundry, take showers and use the phones, he said.

Supply to meet those homeless services is harder to come by. As part of the tough times, the City of Santa Rosa cut $20,000 from the nonprofit agency's budget in 2009. And now the group is hearing that county government may reduce its human services funds.

But looking to 2011, Baker still finds reason for optimism. Even in belt-tightening times, the community — from individuals to businesses to local government — has been unflagging in giving what they can, he said.

This year, the organization is partnering with the Santa Rosa Free Clinic in hopes of tripling the number of beds for homeless people recovering from medical care, to about 16.

"Homeless people get sick even more than people in homes," Baker said.

He also hopes they can hire another part-time case manager to help clients with job search skills and with getting on a path to independence.

"It's so important when you're in crisis to have someone who will actually listen to you," he said.

— Sam Scott