“It’s pretty self-explanatory,” Dana Moses said. “I was homeless and now I help the homeless.” Then he laughed. “Nah, there’s a little more to it than that.”

At the beginning of 2020, Dana had his own painting business, and had been living in Cloverdale for 10 years. Then Covid hit. “I lost my place, I lost all my business,” he said. “I started living on the river, under a bridge.” He’d struggled with addiction before, and after becoming homeless, began using again.

Ironically, it was the fires that saved him. “They had an evacuation shelter at the fairgrounds, and I went there,” he says. “Someone with COTS was doing interviews in case people had nowhere to go. I did one, and they brought me over to COTS.” Dana got right in. “I was lucky,” he said.

That was August 26th, just over a year ago. A week or so later, Shelter Services Manager Robin Phoenix was looking for volunteers to clean up a campsite that had been abandoned, and he agreed to help out. “By doing that I think I showed Robin a little something,” he said. “That’s how I got steered into the Downtown Streets Team. Getting motivated with that opened up a whole bunch of other new doors. That was the pivotal turning point for me, that got me out of bed every morning, that made me believe in myself.”

Downtown Streets Team is a partner nonprofit that provides work experience to homeless individuals through street cleaning and creek restoration – offering leadership opportunities and housing/employment resources at the same time. It was the Downtown Streets Team that helped him get sober. “When I first started, I was smoking weed five minutes before I got there.” Then they promoted him from a yellow shirt to a green shirt, a position of leadership that meant he would lead a Team of his own. “I started thinking, well God, I have leadership now; how are these people supposed to respect me and follow me if I’m high while I’m doing it?” He decided to get clean. 

From there, more doors began to open. His Case Manager, Christina Madden, referred him to a Sober Living Environment (SLE) in Petaluma. “It just so happens that that day, I had thirty days [of sobriety], and the SLE required 30 days clean. It’s weird, it’s just how everything fell into place.”

His new living situation meant he passed the Mary Isaak Center walking home from his mornings with the Downtown Streets Team, and soon he began volunteering at Mary’s Table. Then a position opened for a Kitchen Utility Worker, and a COTS Site Coordinator encouraged him to apply. A month later, he was employed full-time.

Now, he has a second job at Preferred Sonoma Caterers (a connection he made while working in the kitchen), his driver’s license, and a car (thanks to a generous donor), and is still stably housed in the same SLE he moved into last October. 

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done, and I carry it with me,” he said. “I showed up a severe addict, and now I’ll have a year sober October 1st, God willing. I was a different person, and I’m starting to learn how giving back is just as rewarding.

“I owe most all of it to COTS, and [COTS staff] Robin, Christina, Janin, Max, and Chris all taking the time and effort to steer me in the right direction. I did the work, but they took the time to show me how to do it.”