The Living Room launches new service center in Santa Rosa for homeless women and children
When the Living Room opened its new day center for women and children on Monday, it helped one Sonoma County woman come up with a plan to get her life back on track after suddenly losing her home.
She didn’t think she’d ever find herself in that position, the woman told the Santa Rosa-based nonprofit’s staff.
Alethea Larson, director of programs for the Living Room, said women and families struggling to afford Sonoma County often fall into homelessness after a traumatic life event.
“ (Homelessness) is not always what you think it looks like,” Larson said.
The Living Room’s new 3,000-square-foot center in Santa Rosa aims to help women in similar situations find lasting homes while offering warm meals, job training, counseling and other services. The site, at 1335 North Dutton Ave. in an office park west of Highway 101, also refers women needing medical care, case management or legal help to other agencies and nonprofits.
During the pandemic, the Living Room transformed its previous day center near Cleveland and College avenues into transitional housing for women and their families. After deciding to keep the three homes and a studio apartment as housing, the nonprofit this fall began looking for a new site to relaunch its day services.
“We needed our big services to come back, so we needed a whole new campus,” Larson said.
To fund operations at the campus, which are set to cost about $350,000 a year, the nonprofit is relying mainly on new private donations, Larson said. The Living Room also gets money from the city and county. And it’s expecting federal stimulus grants through the American Rescue Plan Act approved last year.
Three full-time staff members and a rotating group of volunteers run the center Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We feel really grateful that the doors are opened and women are coming back,” Larson said.
According to the most recent county homelessness data, 80 families were identified during a point-in-time census in early 2020. Nearly all of them lived in shelters or transitional housing. The count found 709 homeless women, making up 27% of the county’s unhoused population of over 2,700.
The Living Room was founded in 1993 to help Sonoma County women and their children who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Last year, it housed around 30 women and children across several local homes, apartments and in-law units.
Other nonprofits in the county serving at-risk women and children include Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa, Social Advocates for Youth and the YWCA. The county’s Family Justice Center off Mendocino Avenue functions as a one-stop hub for many of those organizations.
During the first day at the Living Room’s new site, bilingual staff members connected a handful of women and their children with various services, said Larson, who looks forward to starting art therapy classes at the site and potentially a teen mentor program with Spring Lake Middle School.
“It made me so excited, I got up even earlier this morning to go to work,” Larson said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to more accurately describe the location of the Living Room’s new day center.
You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at email@example.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian