Happy New Year! As COTS’ CEO, each month I take a moment to consider what I want our community to know about our organization and our progress in serving Sonoma County’s homeless. I look forward to sharing these thoughts with you in this Virtual Cup of Coffee – my monthly communique about the business and mission moments of COTS (Committee On The Shelterless).

My best,

My Focus for the Next 15 Months…

You may have seen the article last week in the Argus Courier announcing my retirement in April 2023. Here is a link to the official media release: https://cots.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/COTS-Jan-2022-Press-Release.pdf. By then, I will be 70 and it’s time for the next generation of leaders to lead this wonderful organization. Some have told me that 70 is the new 50. Perhaps. But it’s good for new leadership to come in with fresh ideas and a passion to selflessly serve our COTS team and those experiencing homelessness.

Why the long lead time? Our board of directors want to take every step necessary to ensure the right CEO continues to lead COTS and a national search can often take six months. And who knows how COVID will impact this process. The board is hiring an executive search firm and they will meet with different stakeholder groups – staff, community leaders, partner agencies, volunteers, and our cherished donors, to get their voice on what they feel are important skills and qualities in the next CEO. In the spirit of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), it is essential that stakeholders are included in the process, have a space for their important voice, be communicated with about progress, and that all candidates have an equal and fair chance. The board also wants some overlap, with the new CEO and me, to help ensure a smooth transition. And all of that takes time.

So, my focus for the next 15 months will be to continue to address the ever-growing concerns of homelessness. It seems the more Sonoma County tries, the challenges still persists. Thankfully, we have some solutions around the corner, like our tiny homes project called People’s Village. We are also working on other housing solutions that will make a difference.

COTS was founded in 1988 by Mary Isaak, Laure Reichek, and a team of dedicated and compassionate volunteers who had concerns for children and adults who were sleeping outdoors in culverts, dumpsters, and other unsafe and unsuitable conditions. COTS has come a long way, and we still have much work to do. The next CEO will continue the long tradition of vision, excellence, collaboration, and innovative services provided by Mary, Laure, and all those who have helped since then. The future of COTS is very bright.

Tiny Homes and Managing Our Expectations

Have you ever remodeled your kitchen, bathroom, or even an entire house? Did everything go as planned and on schedule? Did all the appliances, cabinets, bathroom fixtures, various materials, and even the sub-contractors arrive as planned? Probably not. Frustrating yes, but that is the nature of remodeling and construction. Stuff happens no matter how well-intentioned and thought out a plan is. And then add COVID and the Great Resignation to that mix. Welcome to our tiny home project known as People’s Village.

Our People’s Village Team – City of Petaluma, COTS, various contractors, and QuickHaven are all doing their very best. Four tiny home units have been delivered (unassembled) and six more will be delivered next week. But we have to be patient as there are site improvements that must be done before we can assemble the units. We are going to do this the right way, even if that means taking more time. That patience will make operating the units and serving our guests more effective and efficient. We will get there. We just need to manage our expectations.

Thank you, John McEntee

COTS Director of Facilities John McEntee is helping to lead the efforts to get People’s Village up and running. Every major project needs a project leader who is steady, calm, and can handle the many problems and delays that seem to plague construction projects and do it all with seemingly ease and confidence. John McEntee is that person for COTS. While he can get frustrated because he wants to see this project up and running so we can get people off the streets, he’s a professional, he understands his craft very well, and he knows how to handle problems with staffing, delays, miscommunication, contractors, scheduling, and so much more. Thank you so much John for being our leader on this project. We all appreciate and are grateful for you.

Until next month,

Chuck Fernandez