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Catholic Charities refocuses on services, successes

  • (l to r) Volunteer Carole Colbert of Bodega Bay, helps pick out a blouse for Jackie Stagner, who starts her first job in three years as a server at the new Mister Hofbrau in Santa Rosa on Thursday. Jackie and others are able to pick out free business clothing through Catholic Charities "Dress For Success" program. At back, volunteer Kathy Lane of Windsor helps Manuel Garcia select a shirt.

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.

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