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The Living Room unveils new housing for homeless women

The Living Room, a nonprofit serving homeless women and their children in Sonoma County, on Friday unveiled a new home in Santa Rosa that will offer a temporary, supportive housing as soon as next month to one mother and her child.

Cindy Pasko, Living Room executive director, said the nonprofit already houses 13 formerly homeless women and provides emotional and psychological care services while helping them seek out permanent housing.

“We assist women getting out of their cars or off the street and into a unit where they can have some security and safety and work on restoring their life,” she said.

The new 450-square-foot in-law unit in west Santa Rosa is attached to a one-story residence that is owned by the nonprofit and now houses six formerly homeless women. The Living Room bought the home in April 2019, and both that purchase and the conversion of the unit from a garage to a studio apartment were financed mainly through private donors and grants from local foundations.

Women living in the Living Room’s three houses contribute to rent and volunteer in the community while they seek out a long-term home. They usually stay around two to three years, Pasko said, in large part because of the shortage of affordable housing in Sonoma County.

One of those women, who for her safety asked to be identified only by her middle name, Grace, moved into one of the transitional homes in May after starting parenting and art classes at the nonprofit’s day shelter in Santa Rosa. Before that, she had been staying with her two children at the Catholic Charities’ shelter and YWCA in Santa Rosa.

“We now have a one-bedroom home, and it’s beautiful,” said Grace, who plans to begin studying to become a dental hygienist at Santa Rosa Junior College. “We have a front yard and a backyard and my kids are very happy there.”

Sonoma County Supervisor-elect Chris Coursey attended an open showcase for the new studio unit on Friday. He said he’d like to see more homeowners, in addition to nonprofits, renovate and rent out such converted apartments.

Asked if more county funding ought to be funneled toward local housing nonprofits, he replied: “We’ve got huge needs to take care of homeless people. This can be part of it, but you’ve got to do a lot of things to solve it.”

Pasko, the Living Room director, said she hopes more public officials will come to support transitional housing efforts like her own.

“We get very little federal funding or state funding,” she said. “We’re hoping to change that mix, but the Living Room does have a history of being very supported by the community.”

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

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