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Smith: Santa Rosa City Hall’s expert on affordable housing retires after over 20 years

We can thank the rain for leading Dave Gouin to discover and take shelter in Santa Rosa decades ago while on a solo, cross-country motorcycle adventure from Michigan.

It’s lucky, too, that Gouin met his future wife, Lori, on that post-college ride and the two of them found ready agreement to start their lives together in Santa Rosa. Had that rain not forced Gouin to park his bike in the heart of Sonoma County, he surely wouldn’t have become what he did: a behind-the-scenes and outside-the-box champion of Santa Rosa’s quest to assure that no one must live and sleep out in the elements.

Now 66, Gouin has retired from the city. Folks should know the impact he had as director of Housing and Redevelopment and chief of the Housing Authority.

“He always just put in the work and probably has never gotten the recognition that he deserved,” said Mayor Chris Rogers, someone well aware of all Gouin did to advance the city’s multi-pronged quest to combat chronic homelessness and assure an adequate supply of housing for low-income families and individuals.

Rogers added about Gouin, “He became the face of the city in one of the most visible challenges we’ve had.”

Through his more than 20 years at City Hall, Gouin believed that in partnership with nonprofits and builders and others, Santa Rosa can assist people out of chronic homelessness and help to provide affordable housing.

Though it may not always appear that the homelessness in Santa Rosa is easing, he said, it is. “Just last year we were able to house 359 people.”

Jennielynn Holmes is with Catholic Charities, which has begun construction downtown of Caritas Village, to feature a shelter, services hub and 128 apartments. She’s a big fan of Dave Gouin.

“The world of affordable housing is so complex,” Holmes said. “If I ever had a quesrion, he was the person I would go to.”

She added about Gouin, “He’s very approachable, very understanding. He’s one of the most thoughtful people I know.”

As Gouin heads into retirement, he’s proud of what Santa Rosa has achieved in the realm of assuring that all have a decent place to live, and he’s expecting great strides in the future.

And he said he’s certain that there’s no place else that he and Lori care to live.

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RECIPE BURNED: Only people who’ve lost homes to firestorms know what it’s like to start a search for some little thing that they’d had forever and then come to realize that, as with most everything they owned, that item no longer exists.

For Tubbs fire survivor Cathy Passmore it happened with a cookie recipe she’d clipped from The Press Democrat a good long time ago, in 1993. That was before the paper switched to digital archives.

The recipe was for Kolache cookies, eastern European pastries that are folded and filled with fruit preserves or sweet cheese or chopped nuts, and that I wish I had a few of right this second.

When Passmore couldn’t find online the same recipe she found in the PD all those years ago, she reached out to the newspaper. The newsroom’s Dominique Jackson, an administrative assistant who handles the phones and the mail and so much else that she is indispensable, launched a search for the Kolache recipe.

She found it, and she emailed it to Passmore.

It made her cry.

Passmore told Jackson in an email, “I actually got tears in my eyes knowing that I have this recipe once again. I lost hundreds of recipes in the Tubbs Fire that I had clipped from The Press Democrat.”

Passmore let Jackson know the cookie is a favorite of her son’s since he was a boy, and “I’m going to surprise him with a batch.“

You can contact Chris Smith at 707 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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