H.O.S.T., Naomi’s House update

A view of Naomi's House taken 9/14/21, showing new sign and landscaping. Concrete has recently been poured on the south end of the property, completing the landscaping in the front yard.

Naomi’s House is now open every night for those on the West Side who need a safe place to sleep. The facility, like H.O.S.T. House, serves Crows Landing, Grayson, Newman, Patterson and Westley, as well as the unincorporated areas, is located at 415 S 4th Street, next door to H.O.S.T. House, at 405 S 4th Street.

As Naomi’s House was being built, Cambridge Academies Director Rosie Raya, Case Manager Monica Rabago and I got to know the homeless women in Patterson and the surrounding areas; going out to where they lived, or were likely to be. We heard painful stories; we offered encouragement and support, and a reminder that life can be better. We occasionally left a lunch or hygiene kit at the entrance to one of our ladies’ camps, tucked out of sight.

Eventually, we learned where pretty much everybody stayed (and figured out how to find them when they moved, which could be frequent). We walked regular routes, carrying lunches, and warm glove and scarf sets if it was cold, or water in the heat. And always, hygiene kits. The community generously donates travel-sized containers of essentials like shampoo and conditioner, and toothpaste, as well as feminine hygiene products, which are distributed in the kits. Each contains the basics: shampoo, conditioner if it’s on hand, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and deodorant if it’s available. We sometimes receive special things, like scented body lotion, and even makeup – the ladies are always excited to receive them! The guys appreciate the hygiene kits that are made up specifically for them, as well.

Currently, Raya said last Wednesday, Naomi’s House is also serving single moms and their children, ages seven to 17. “Some of the women have jobs,” Raya said, and “just are going through a difficult time.”

Along with providing a safe place to stay, both houses offer Day Program services from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. “(From) the high 60s to as many as 89 people come each week, to take advantage of Day Program services,” Raya said, which include lunch and a shower, including hygiene kits and clean clothes. Other assistance is also available on a case-by-case basis, including with obtaining replacement Social Security cards, driver’s license or state I.D.; Medi-Cal; CalFresh (food stamps) and signing up for the waiting list for low-income housing for Stanislaus County.

Raya said the Day Program also offers workshops for homeless clients on Tuesdays and Thursdays called “Money Matters,” which teach financial literacy using a game, and other tools. “A lot of our ladies are working, and have that responsibility,” Raya said. “The game is a hands-on, fun, engaging way to be aware of how they spend money. If they want to get into affordable housing,” she said, “they will learn what they need to do to get there while staying with us.

Workshop participants also learn about other budget items, such as food, gas and utilities, “so that they have a bigger picture, of what it means to be financially self-sufficient.

“The ultimate goal is for them to get a checking and savings account,” Raya said. Cambridge Academies has teamed up with Oak Valley Bank to provide banking services to those who need them, she said. “When they meet their (savings) goal, they will have what they need to move into a studio or one-bedroom apartment.” Raya said.

A number of women have passed through Naomi’s House since it opened. Some may come back, to visit or to stay. One woman who stayed at the facility early on went through a difficult time and is now back at the shelter, receiving support, encouragement and assistance with getting back on her feet.

Employment is a part of the goal for anyone staying at either facility, and Raya shared a success story: “We placed a woman in a trade program, and she’s working on her GED through Del Puerto.” It was “phenomenal” that the woman’s kids came with her, Raya said, but they didn’t want to stay at shelter. They’re currently staying with family while their mom is working on changing her life for the better.

Reunification of the family is another goal, at both houses.

H.O.S.T. House update

H.O.S.T. House is currently open for overnight guests Monday – Friday, and there are currently four transitional students at the H.O.S.T. House facility. These are students who have been through the Enterprise Restart program, and “are living with us,” Raya said. “One will be working for us as of tomorrow (last Thursday). He was truck driving, but he came back to be closer to family.”

That former student is Rodney Corgiat, who went through the program a of couple years ago. “(The program) got me woken up; helped me out; gave me a place to live, got me started.” When he completed the training, he went to truck driving school. “I’ve done long-haul, across the United States.”

And he’s back now. “I came here because this place is like a home to me. It’s peaceful and quiet; everybody gets along.”

When he entered the ReStart Program, “I needed that little kick,” he said, “I was done. I’d lost everything. My wife; I got divorced; lost my kids; after that, you know, you lose your job, your vehicle and everything else.”

He lived in his car for four or five months, Rodney said. “That wasn’t fun, living in parking lots.” His sister, an RN, put him in touch with services available through the County, which referred him to H.O.S.T. House. He likes being at the house, he said, because “it keeps my mind busy. They helped me get my mind back, because I lost it, for awhile.”

H.O.S.T. House Manager Gene Martinez could have something to do with that. Martinez, also a former student, sets the tone for an upbeat and supportive atmosphere. The addition of Rodney means that Martinez is now available during the day, both to oversee the smooth operations of the house and to do outreach, to encourage others to take advantage of the services available at H.O.S.T House.

“This place helps a lot of people out,” Rodney said, adding that services are available to help make life better for those living on the streets, if they will take advantage of it.

(Note: Change is inevitable, and after a life-threatening illness (not COVID) and recuperation, I’m not as involved in Naomi’s House as I originally was. The work there continues, and remains geared toward providing a safe place for women who are homeless, or very close to it, to get their feet under them, and start getting their lives back on track.)

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