I am delighted to introduce myself as the new Director of Development here at COTS. Since my husband, daughter and I moved to Petaluma last summer, I knew I wanted to immerse myself in the community and make a difference in peoples’ lives at an organization I felt passionate about. I absolutely found the right match at COTS, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to build our network of supporters to further COTS’ mission of ending homelessness in Sonoma County.

I’ve been learning a lot in the last two weeks about our amazing staff, our deep range of programs, and the incredible strength and dedication of our COTS community. There is so much on the horizon here at COTS! I’m happy to share some of our news with you, and can’t wait find new ways of connecting in the months and years to come.

Warmly,

Jamieson Bunn
Director of Development
jbunn@cots.org


Making Housing Permanent

Since the beginning of our fiscal year in July, we’ve helped 153 clients find housing through our Rapid Re-Housing program! March looks like it’s going to be an exciting month, so stay tuned for updates.

But finding housing is of little value unless people have the financial and social resources to keep their housing.

That’s why about half of our program staff members are dedicated to helping people secure housing while the other half provide the support people need to stay housed.

Support can mean many things: rental assistance; job search and training resources; and help with budgeting and personal finance skills, securing child care, or navigating courts and bureaucracies.


Pictured: COTS’ Outreach Specialist Cecily Kagy listens to a COTS client

Outreach and Assistance in Rohnert Park

“I’m meeting people who have been homeless for so long they’ve lost all faith and hope in humanity,” Cecily Kagy says.

“And I get to help them. I love my job.”

Cecily is our newest outreach worker, serving the community of Rohnert Park. Until recently, she worked as a housing navigator at our Mary Isaak Center. Her office there was cramped, but compared to her current working conditions, it was the Taj Mahal.

“I pulled up a sheet of cardboard to sit down next to one gentleman earlier this week. He was under a bush, and I wanted to be able to make eye contact,” Cecily says. She learned that the gentleman was employed fulltime but crippled by a child support obligation that had been set while he was making much more money. In order to pay, he’s been camping for more than a year. Cecily helped him get into a shelter bed and is helping him with a child support modification request.

She keeps boots in her car so that she can muck around creek beds and talk with the people who live on them. She also keeps her dress shoes handy so that she can drop in to local businesses to meet the owners and let them know about her work and how they get in touch with her. “I try to meet at least one or two business people every day.”

Cecily’s position is funded by the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, and she serves an area where there are many people in need of help.

How many? Nick Bennett, Rohnert Park’s Environmental Coordinator, estimates that there are over 60 encampments in town—many of them along the city’s fragile water ways—along with numerous people living in vehicles. The Rohnert Park School system reports that there are over 40 homeless children in the city’s schools.

Until recently, Rohnert Park’s only resources to help the homeless while protecting health and safety were the police and a private security firm that patrols the creeks at night. “None of us are social workers,” Nick says. “Cecily comes out here, and she’s disarming and approachable. At the same time, she’s not a pushover. She’s solution oriented, and I watched her build connections with people.”

After only two weeks on the job, Cecily is excited about many things: getting six people safely indoors in shelter, rehab or housing; convincing a group of campers to clean their space and bring it further back from the water (“We’ll get them inside soon,” she says); making a connection with a young pregnant woman who’s tired of living in a soggy tent behind a big box store; helping an elderly brother and sister apply for an open apartment in an affordable housing complex. “All my time at the Mary Isaak Center was well spent because I know how the system works and what the resources are,” she says.


Licensed Social Worker joins our permanent housing team

Starting this week, all the residents in our Integrity Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing programs will now have the opportunity to work with Lynea Seiberlich-Wheeler, our licensed clinical social worker and Director of COTS’ Coordinated Care program. She conducts a clinical assessment with each new client as he or she moves into housing, helping define goals, strengths and barriers. This helps our case managers identify appropriate resources and supports right off the bat.

Many landlords around Petaluma work with us to end homelessness in Sonoma County by making rooms and apartments available to our clients, and we are always looking for more. Thank you, landlords, for your support!

Housing Changes a Teen’s Future

Living in a shelter isn’t easy. Neither is high school. Put the two together, and you have a recipe for misery. Nobody could get Bruno to go to school when he and his family lived at our shelter.

They recently moved into permanent housing with COTS support, and Bruno is back in class! Get ready, SATs!


Daily Menus on Facebook

Nobody should have to live on ramen in order to stay housed. That’s why Mary’s Table at the Mary Isaak Center provides a free lunch to anyone in the community who needs it. We post our menus on Facebook every week day. You can find us at facebook.com/ sonomacountycots. Please help us spread the word about our most delicious and healthy homeless prevention program. Warning: these posts will make you hungry!

Big band offers big help and lots of fun

The Windsor Jazz Ensemble is putting on a benefit concert for COTS on Sunday, April 7th in Healdsburg! Join the band for an afternoon of big band jazz and swing, wine, and delicious hors d’oeuvres. There will also be a raffle featuring fabulous prizes from Mayacama Resort, Mutt Lynch Winery, the Raven Theater, Comstock Winery, Chateau Diana, artists Wendy Brayton and Bill Gittens, Manduka Yoga Mats, and many more!

Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door. The event will take place at 235 Healdsburg Ave (previously Cafe Lucia) from 4pm-6:30pm. For tickets and more information, please visit jazzforcots.eventbrite.com, or contact Val Pustorino at saxophonegirl426@gmail.com. All proceeds go to COTS. We hope to see you there!