In November 2023, Petaluma’s Women’s Club welcomed COTS’ engagement specialist, Diana Morales, to speak about COTS to their members. As someone with lived experience, Diana passionately advocates for COTS whenever she gets a chance.

Diana lived on the streets of Santa Rosa for four years battling alcoholism until someone urged her to visit COTS. With no shoes on her feet, Diana boarded the bus and began the life-changing journey that has led her to permanent housing, full-time employment, and a rekindling of her relationship with her mom.

She highlighted that our clients’ journeys start the moment they walk through our doors. Once they come in, they begin to realize they are in a safe place. They have access to hot showers, a safe bed, and steady food access. After they settle in, the work of securing their housing begins for both their care manager and them. Our transition to becoming a housing-focused program means that we require the clients to participate in their care and housing process.

Depending on each client’s capacity and their long-term goals, COTS offers a variety of pathways to gain housing.

“Our shelters are not permanent housing, but they are a stepping stone to coming in off the streets.”

COTS has 80 beds and during this event, 65 were occupied by community members needing assistance.

COTS also provides Recuperative Care Housing. This style of housing allows neighbors experiencing homelessness to receive care from a medical facility and then have a safe, clean, and nourishing place to complete their healing process.

Also, COTS can allow clients to stay in our tiny homes, People’s Village. The 25 individual homes each have a desk, dresser, locking door, and communal access to showers and bathrooms.

Another route to housing is to rent at Studios at the Montero (SAM). SAM was created in partnership with Burbank Housing. An old hotel was renovated into 60 individual studio-style living units. Each unit’s rent is paid by the client as stated in their lease. Residents have access to care management, personal kitchenettes, bathrooms, a community gardening space, and a private parking lot.

With the need for affordable housing rising, COTS also utilizes integrity housing. COTS master leases housing in Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, and Santa Rosa. Then each of the rooms is rented out to those in our programs who are ready and able to live on their own. Each home has around four to five bedrooms. Like SAM, residents pay rent and have an official lease, but Integrity Housing is congregate living.

The rapid rehousing (RRH) team provides clients with access to state funding for deposits, the first month’s rent, and other fees. While the funding is not given to the clients, it is paid directly to the property managers or owners on the client’s behalf. The rapid rehousing team steps in to help once clients have found a place to live and their rental applications have been accepted. Clients do not have to pay this funding back and receive inspections to ensure it is a safe and healthy environment for clients or families.
Once the housing is secured, the RRH team will help furnish the place and teach the clients how to save money and budget.

In addition to housing options, COTS provides many other client services.

Some members of Petaluma’s Women’s Club regularly volunteer, such as Lori who provides a sense of belonging to clients as they try to greet many of them by name while they are serving meals. These meals at the Mary Isaak Center, come from our certified chef who cooks and serves two homemade and delicious meals a day.

Our social services programs provide mental healthcare, physical and medical well-being, parenting classes, and more! COTS also partners with Petaluma Health Center to host Nurse Annie and her nurses in training for general care. Annie and her team can give our clients referrals to specialists, treat common ailments, and administer vaccinations.

The Red Tape Club at COTS assists with whatever may be restricting the clients back from achieving their goals. Red Tape Club has assisted clients with utilizing computers, filing applications, hosting mock interviews, finding employment, and handling legal issues.

With homelessness continuing to affect our community, COTS is a housing-focused program with wraparound services to help the whole person needing assistance in achieving their goals.