Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Blog Post 
By: Rachel Spencer ( )

Rachel Spencer (Edited)Traffic is miserable in the . It’s not because the highways are small or that traffic lights aren’t programed properly, but because people are flocking here. As the number of cars on the road continues to increase, the number of people looking for housing is also increasing at a high rate.

As the Bay Area’s population continues to grow, the supply of rental units is rapidly decreasing and the demand for them is increasing, which is causing rental prices to sharply incline year after year.  For the affluent, the high rental rates are often discussed as an annoyance. For the working class, the high rental rates are crippling. If you want to survive the cost of living in the Bay Area, a single household needs to make a minimum of$78,000/year. Most working class individuals are working hard at jobs that pay minimum wage.  Imagine: for one household to make $78,000/year, it would require 4.7 full time minimum wage jobs!

Despite working full time and doing all that is in their control working class families are struggling to scrape by and, just when it all gets to be too much to handle, Samaritan House swoops in to save the day.

The name Samaritan House reflects perfectly the nature of the good work that they do. It calls to mind the story of The Good Samaritan.  In short, the story depicts a man who was a victim to thieves during his travels, leaving him without any possessions and half dead on the side of the street. As he lay there, people walked past him and avoided him until another traveler from Samaria helped him by tending to his wounds, giving him a safe place to stay and being a true hero for this man in need. Samaritan House exemplifies the compassion for the needy in today’s San Mateo.

In San Mateo alone, there is not a shortage of people who need help meeting their basic needs. As they come to Samaritan House, they are treated like dignified human beings and helped to get a roof over their heads, clothing on their children’s backs and food in their stomachs.

On any given day, you can go to Samaritan House in San Mateo to find a 3 story building full of compassion, dedication, humility, kindness, and laughter working day-in and day-out to meet the basic needs of those who can’t do it on their own. In other words, you’ll find a 3 story building full of heroes, and remember, not all heroes wear capes.

Community Connections Blog Posts are comprised of narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best- our staff, clients, and volunteers!

Everyone is invited to participate, please email your experience with Samaritan House to rebecca@samaritanhousesanmatao.org.

Safe Harbor Shelter Increases Clients’ Access to Programming

A special thank you to communications volunteer Monica MacMillan for contributing the following blog post.

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Since 1987, Samaritan House has been providing beds to the homeless as part of its efforts to meet the immediate and basic needs of low-income individuals in San Mateo County.  In 2000, Samaritan House opened Safe Harbor Shelter, a ninety-bed shelter located in South San Francisco.  In addition to providing the homeless with emergency shelter, safety, warmth, and sustenance, Safe Harbor offers healthcare assistance, substance abuse counseling, and job search assistance.  Historically, Safe Harbor has offered its clients referrals to outside agencies for these supplementary services.  Increasingly, however, it is trying to bring programs in-house.

“We want to support our clients as much as possible” by improving their access to programming, says Julia Parmer, the Mental Health Case Manager at Safe Harbor.  Because many clients don’t own their own transportation, it can be difficult for them to travel to outside agencies to get the help they need.  Moreover, “there is a lot of downtime [at the shelter].”  Programs offered on-site give clients a productive way to spend their time if they are not working.  Parmer has been offering group stress management counseling, and art therapy is coming soon.  Alcoholics Anonymous and Bible study groups meet weekly.  A new learning center with computers is also planned for the near future.

Course Hero, a local start-up company that allows college students to share their academic resources with each other, recently came to Safe Harbor to offer a free resume-building workshop.  Knowledgeable volunteers offered tips on how to market yourself, how to write a personalized cover letter, and what to do and not to do in an interview.  For clients who brought their existing resumes and cover letters, volunteers offered one-on-one editing sessions.  Course Hero plans to return periodically to provide its expertise to Safe Harbor clients.  “I’m happy that we’re in a position to help,” says John Stacey, co-founder and VP of Campus Programs.

For more information about Safe Harbor Shelter, please contact  650-873-4921.

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ESL Classes at Worker Resource Center

A special thank you to communications volunteer Monica MacMillan for contributing the following blog post.

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Full House

According to a recent survey conducted by media organization Red Brown and Blue, “98.1% of undocumented Latino immigrants want to learn how to speak and write English.”  Yet, only a mere 11.2% feel that they can speak and write it “well or very well.”  Despite this strong demand, “cities across the country are experiencing severe shortages of English [as a second language] teachers, leaving long lines of would-be English speakers waiting outside their doors,” according to Businessweek.com.  It is with this backdrop that Samaritan House is thrilled to welcome Sergio Lua as its newest volunteer English teacher at the Worker Resource Center.

Sergio Lua, ESL Teacher

Lua began teaching English at the Worker Resource Center a little over a month ago.  Classes are free, and the curriculum is determined largely by the students.  “I have them tell me what they want to learn,” says Lua.  In addition to basic greetings and grammar, participants often ask to learn vocabulary relating to their occupations, such as tools used in landscaping, carpentry, and painting.  Frequently, they practice pronunciation of the phrase “I am looking for a job.”

An immigrant himself, Lua came to the United States from Mexico in 2003 with very little knowledge of English.  Through adult education classes, he learned English very quickly, and started taking other classes.  He currently attends Notre Dame de Namur University and is working towards a B.A. in psychology.  He volunteers his time at the Worker Resource Center because he wants to give back to his community.

“I want to make them feel comfortable,” Lua says, referring to his students.  “It’s not a school, you can participate or not,” so long as you remain respectful.  Lua is also experimenting constantly to see what works best.  He is currently considering creating a curriculum and posting a calendar outside the classroom so that his students know in advance what he will be teaching from week to week.

In a focus group study conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, immigrants were insistent that learning English was “critical for their success.”  “Fully 85% [said] it is hard to get a good job or do well in this country without learning English.”  Reyna Sandoval, the Interim Volunteer Coordinator at Samaritan House, agrees: “I know that workers have been passed up by potential employers because they don’t speak English.”  Equally as important as finding employment, English-speaking immigrants are frequently more “well-versed in their rights and the laws protecting them,” notes Businessweek.com.

If you are interested in volunteering as an English teacher at the Worker Resource Center, please contact Reyna Sandoval, Interim Volunteer Coordinator at (650)523-0819 for more information.

Sergio teaching

In honor of financial literacy month

jar2A special thank you to communications volunteer Monica MacMillan for contributing the following blog post.

As financial literacy month draws to a close, we highlight why Samaritan House’s newest program, the Financial Empowerment Program, is so important to low-income residents in our county.

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1 in 3 adults in America carry credit card debt from month-to-month, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. A staggering 61% of adults admit to not having a budget. In other words, many people – even those in the middle and upper classes – have work to do when it comes to establishing healthy financial habits.

For those with lower incomes, however, having a solid foundation on which to base their daily spending decisions can mean the difference between self-sufficiency and crisis. “Commonly, compared with middle class and higher income Americans, low-income persons save much lower portions of their incomes and accumulate fewer assets.” (1) That means that people with lower incomes must think more strategically about ways to save more than those with a larger monthly surplus.

Housing prices in the Bay Area make saving even more challenging than in other parts of the country. According to San Mateo County’s most recent survey, “more than 50 percent of owners with mortgages . . . and 47 percent of renters in [the county] spent 30 percent or more of [their] household income on housing” (emphasis added). For the approximately 46,000 people in San Mateo County who live in poverty (2), trying to pay the mortgage or rent and save strategically each month is no easy task.

Samaritan House created the financial empowerment program in order to give its clients the financial tools necessary to achieve economic stability and self-sufficiency, and to stay out of crisis. Services include educational classes and one-on-one counseling about topics such as budgeting, banking, credit, identity theft, and predatory lending. Certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteers also provide free tax preparation to households of limited means. Perhaps the most inventive aspect of the program is the Start2Save plan, where clients can save up to $500 of their own money and earn $1,000 in matched savings that they are encouraged to use as an emergency fund. To qualify, clients must attend ten hours of financial education classes and save at least $20 per month.

According to Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan, when people have difficulty saving for the future, it is not simply because they lack self-control. Rather, it is because they don’t have the proper savings tools in place. The Financial Empowerment Program gives the clients of Samaritan House the tools, techniques, and confidence they need to build a more secure future.

For more information about Samaritan House’s Financial Empowerment Program, contact us.

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1 National Coalition for Domestic Violence.

2 San Mateo County Nutrition and Food Insecurity Profile, 2010.

Meet Bart Charlow, Samaritan House’s New CEO

bart-pic-smThe Board of Directors of Samaritan House are pleased to announce the appointment of Bart Charlow as the agency’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) effective June 1, 2014. Mr. Charlow will attend and meet with Samaritan House’s supporters and guests at the agency’s annual fundraiser dinner, The Main Event, on Saturday, May 3, 2014.

Charlow is a seasoned health and human services CEO, who manages and consults in nonprofit, business, health care and human relations markets. He is also a practicing Licensed Marriage, Family & Child Therapist and currently serves as the Executive Director of Peninsula Volunteers in Menlo Park.

Samaritan House’s appointment of Charlow concludes a year-long search to fill the executive director position vacated by Kitty Lopez in May of 2013.

“After a national search of formidable candidates,” says Patty Hsiu, Samaritan House Board Chair, “Bart emerged as our next leader because of his extensive experience and his work in various nonprofit roles in our community over the last 30 years. He is an established local leader, an effective organizational builder, and a strategic and innovative thinker. As we celebrate Samaritan House’s 40th anniversary in 2014, Bart is ideally suited to lead our agency forward as we continue to provide comprehensive support to those in need.”

“Samaritan House is the great heart of a great community,” Charlow shares of his new position. “I’m thrilled to join this vital organization and humbled to be chosen to lead it into its fifth decade of service. As the gap widens between the privileged and the poor, Samaritan House is needed more than ever. I hope that those who have made the organization so effective – and any who want to help – will join with us in making a difference here in our community.”

In Charlow’s 39 years as a San Francisco Bay Area executive, he has held posts at several Bay Area nonprofit organizations: CEO of Easter Seals Bay Area, CEO of Adult & Child Guidance Center, President of Silicon Valley FACES (former Northern California National Conference for Community & Justice), and Executive Director of Peninsula Volunteers. He has also served as Interim Executive Director for several organizations, including: Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Coastside Children’s Programs, and Loaves & Fishes of Contra Costa. He has been an Instructor for the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals, St. Mary’s College, and at Notre Dame de Namur University.

Charlow has been a member or officer of numerous community boards and commissions. In 2007, he received the Award of Special Merit from the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission for his Interfaith work.

Charlow holds an M.A.Ed in Counseling and a B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology from Wake Forest University. Over the course of his career, he has been quoted in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and interviewed on the NBC Today Show.

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Meet Bart Charlow at this year’s Main Event – May 3, 2014. Purchase your tickets for the event today!

 

 

Thank you, VITA Volunteers!

Tax Program Collage

As we celebrate the end another tax season, we congratulate our staff & VITA volunteers for another amazing year. Volunteers prepared 304 tax returns for low-income families, returning $444,000 in refunds to our community!

Thank you to our outstanding tax preparers, greeters, & translators for all their dedication in helping our clients file their taxes for free this spring.

One of Samaritan House’s volunteer, Matt Rudnick, recently shared his experience with the VITA program and explains why he plans on returning to help next year:

San Mateo Clinic in the San Jose Mercury Wishbook

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Patient Ronaldo Romero with Samaritan House Dental Assistant Alex Vilchez

We are very excited as well as honored to be a featured nonprofit in the San Jose Mercury Holiday Wish Book this year!

This year’s Wish Book story from Samaritan House features dental patient, Ronaldo, who came to our clinic from by way of our Safe Harbor Shelter. Ronaldo, who is currently uninsured, was seen at the San Mateo Clinic for help maintaining his diabetes, dental work, and for a referral to surgically treat the cataracts which previously rendered him unable to work and to see.

Your donation to Samaritan House helps individuals like Ronaldo receive the medical & dental treatment needed to live a full and healthy life. Read his story in the Wish Book and please consider a donation to help patients like Ronaldo at both of our free clinics:

http://www.mercurynews.info/wishbook/2013/wbsam.shtml

Shop Amazon Smile & support Samaritan House!

A simple way to support Samaritan House every time you shop, at no extra cost to you!

For a limited time, The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the total purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases.

Visit the link above or search for Samaritan House – San Mateo on smile.amazon.com to designate us as your charity of choice.

A wonderful way to support our programs and services as you do your online holiday shopping!

Samaritan House

Remember Samaritan House on Giving Tuesday

 

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We couldn’t have accomplished so much this year without supporters like you! As we begin to plan our holiday distributions for families in need, we’ve joined the #GivingTuesday movement, an annual campaign created to promote a national day of giving at the start of the holiday season to celebrate organizations like Samaritan House that make our community a better place.

 

From food to shelter to financial empowerment and more, Samaritan House invites you to help support the work we do.

 

Remember us on Giving Tuesday and visit our donation page to make your contribution.

In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month…

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“I am very thankful for the Breast Clinic. I have learned the appropriate way to examine myself…Thank you very much for all your help provided to us as women.” Samaritan House Breast Clinic patient

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, approximately 1 in 8 women (12%) will be affected by breast cancer in her lifetime.

The Samaritan House Breast Care Clinic was started in 1999 by a group of female physician volunteers at the Free Clinic of San Mateo who were concerned that low-income women, without access to healthcare, were not aware of the importance of routine breast screenings. Our Breast Care Clinic exists today to provide breast cancer prevention, education, and screening services for low-income women in San Mateo County.

The Breast Care Clinic reduces barriers to providing uninsured women with access to high-quality and timely breast health care services. Many clients in our target population are unaware of the risks they face and the importance of regular self-examination, clinical breast exams, and early detection. This program is particularly important in getting clients to change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors about regularly performing a breast self-exam and screening mammograms.

Dr. Lynn B. Rosenstock, a volunteer physician at Samaritan House’s San Mateo Clinic, spoke recently about the breast care clinic and the importance of education about breast cancer.

Show your support for our Breast Care Clinic – Your donation helps provide education and screenings for women in need. Make your secure online donation today.