Building Bridges and Partnerships to Get Things Done

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Release Date: 
Monday, March 11, 2019

Today Amanda, our VISTA member in Santa Barbara, California shares how partnerships changed the life of a client.

For many who have never talked to a person experiencing homelessness, “the homeless” are living a lifestyle choice, content to live in squalor and depend on the kindness of non-profits and strangers, but the reality is far from it.

Living on the streets, especially for over nine years, is no easy task, and knowing that it is to no fault of your own is even harder. Going from working 12-16 hour days for many years with no raises can take a toll. Maintaining and affording a home becomes a priority, but when your work pay does not increase along with the cost of living, it can all be lost overnight.

Such is the case with our client, Roger.* For the first couple of years, sleeping in the van he owned was a way to stay safe and survive, but when the van broke down and could not be fixed, his only option was to turn to the streets.

Once a person is experiencing homelessness, society starts to see them differently. Being treated as less than human is common place, even by City Police and Rangers. Being told you cannot sleep where you are, even when you have the permission of the building owner is the norm. Nothing about living on the streets and wondering where you will sleep and get your next meal from is a choice. If anything, only the strong can survive it…and that is exactly what our client has done.

After nine years of experiencing homelessness, Roger has been permanently housed thanks to the help of Clarissa, a homeless case navigator at our office. Since being placed in permanent housing on February 6th, our client has successfully completed the Solutions Track and removed from calendar in Santa Maria after three months. In those months Clarissa worked hard, providing him with necessary transportation, fee waivers to obtain all important documents, and other support such as hygiene items, clothing, and food. The fact that Clarissa was there helping him and genuinely cared about his success aided our client in getting where he is today: permanently housed after nine years of living on the streets.

After being in and out of the criminal justice system for many years, Roger has never experienced help in the way that the Solutions Track, an alternative treatment court offered him. He is immensely grateful and continues to make us proud by doing all that he can to keep the housing that has been provided to him, and continues utilize Clarissa’s help and resources to become more self-sufficient.

A big thank you goes to AmeriCorps/United Way/Home for Good for their financial assistance in helping Roger obtain the funds to submit his application and deposit. Without their help, Roger would not have been able to reserve the unit and would still be looking for permanent housing. Further thanks are extended to AmeriCorps/United Way/Home for Good for connecting our client to Crestwood. With the help of Crestwood  he was able to obtain a bed and dresser for his new home!

The biggest thanks goes to Clarissa herself. Her dedication to her clients is bar none. The hard work and enthusiasm she puts into each client that comes through the Public Defender’s Office shows through the successes she has had in not only placing this client in permanent housing, but other clients as well. The attention and care she shows her clients through the Public Defender’s Office is unmatched by any other. Clarissa’s compassion and heart makes her a great success at the work she does, and because of her, the partnership between AmeriCorps/United Way/Home for Good and the Public Defender’s Office is thriving.

The partnership between the Public Defender’s Office and AmeriCorps/United Way/Home for Good is an extraordinary example of how two organizations working together can change the lives of those who need it most. By having Clarissa serving in the Public Defender’s Office, clients who need help, but may fall through the cracks in the legal system, are able to receive personalized attention and assistance in many ways. This partnership has already proven that change can happen when collaboration exists among two groups with similar goals.


*Name changed to protect privacy.