Community Connections – Julia Parmer

the harbor overlooking shelter at sunset

the harbor overlooking shelter at sunset

Written By:  

Samaritan House Staff Member, Julia Parmer 

John has been sitting by the window overlooking the SamTrans parking lot for two days now. He is steadfast in his vigilance, barely moving a muscle, back straight, hands in his lap. He is watching something, but I do not yet know what. Towards the end of the second day, he cautiously approaches the front desk, where I am filling out some paperwork. “Miss Julia?” he asks hesitantly. “There’s a dog in that truck by the window. I think his owner must have forgotten about him and I’m worried.” Following John’s lead, several clients run to the window, and for the first time they observe what he has been keeping a close watch over. A small dog is sitting in the driver’s seat of a large Chevy truck. The dog is completely still. Immediately, we all spring into action. Anje calls the police and the SPCA. Gus, an outreach case manager from San Mateo County Behavioral Health who happens to be here runs outside and taps on the car window, hoping to awaken the dog. The car window is slightly open. With some help from another client, Gus drops some food inside. The dog stirs; he is ok.  John continues to oversee the action from his perch, silent and steady. All hands are now on deck to save this neglected animal. I am smiling, laughing at the controlled chaos.

            Every day, the residents of Safe Harbor amaze me. John has little more than a backpack to his name. Yet there he sits, day in and day out, keeping watch over another life, protecting this small creature that cannot protect itself. It is these moments in which I feel so privileged to work here and it is these moments that make the other, often heartbreaking moments bearable. I am so thankful to know people like John, and to be a part of this community at Samaritan House.

**This post was written for our Community Connections Blog. There you will find stories, ideas, opinions and other narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best, the staff and volunteers! you have a story you would like to tell, please email it 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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Peninsula Food Runners in the news

Wonderful story about our friends at Peninsula Food Runners on ABC7, featuring Samaritan House’s Safe Harbor shelter, its residents, and staff.

Since 1987, the Food Runners helped deliver excess perishable and prepared food from businesses such as restaurants, caterers, and corporate cafeterias and deliver it directly to organizations that feed the homeless. We appreciate this group’s continued support of our shelter throughout the years!

 

Breaking the Cycle: Martin’s Story (Conclusion)

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Kat Barrientos, Safe Harbor Health Case Manager

Last week we profiled the story of a resident of Safe Harbor, Martin, as he overcame obstacles and arrived at our shelter to get back on his feet. Click here to read the first part of his story.

Guest blog post by Amy Hsieh.

A year ago, Martin was caught stealing a registration sticker from another car. Fortunately, the charges were dropped down, but it gave him a scare. He has goals now, like going back to work, finding housing and maintaining his health.

A big part of Martin’s turnaround has been working with his health case manager Kat Barrientos in Safe Harbor’s Housing for Health program. This past year, Martin developed severe cellulitis that caused swelling of the limbs, headaches, fever and pain. At Safe Harbor, Kat physically examines his leg every day, and makes sure that Martin shows up to all his medical appointments.

Martin’s life is different now. He is strongly focused, and his life is getting back on track. He works closely with his case manager on his individual plan that is tailored to what’s going on in his life. Martin knows that he has Kat to support him and to give him tools to help.

“Kat doesn’t feel like staff. She feels like a friend. She keeps me on track with my plan and helps me keep my word to myself,” he says.

How does Martin feel about the future? He feels great. For the first time in along time, he is thinking about what he wants to do in five years. He’s taking classes and plans to enroll in a skills training program to become a surgical technician or a medical device assembly technician.

“I changed because I had to turn the page, because I wanted to accept myself and be around people who want more from life. Safe Harbor allows you space and time to think about where you want to go,” says Martin.

A few months ago, Kat invited Martin to serve as a consumer representative on a new Advisory Board for San Mateo County Medical Center’ Healthcare for the Homeless. This new role as a homeless advocate is a natural fit.

“Being on the Advisory Board has really helped his self-confidence. It has given him a voice to express his ideas that are taken seriously. I’m very proud of him,” says Kat.

Martin’s story is just one story from the several hundred men and women Safe Harbor serves every year. With the community’s strong support, Samaritan House will continue to help those in need regain self-sufficiency and build brighter futures. For a list of the shelter’s current needs, please visit Our Wish List page.

Breaking the Cycle: Martin’s Story (Part 1)

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We are excited to present this guest blog post by Samaritan House Grants Manager Amy Hsieh. Amy visited with a resident of Safe Harbor to talk about his experiences with homelessness and his road towards stability.

Martin is chronically homeless, having lived in and out of Safe Harbor shelter since the late 90’s when it was still located in the National Guard Armory in San Mateo.

Born in Los Angeles, Martin spent his childhood in San Francisco in a family that provided little supervision. Martin says, “I lived a different life. I was drug-oriented. I partied all the time when I was a teenager. It became a lifestyle. Then it becomes your life.”

He found jobs, worked for many years in South City in the freight and shipping business, but was always sidetracked by drugs. For a while, he worked for at an international freight company, where he used his travel benefits to fly to exotic locations. Inevitably, he would spend all of his money, and then be back for another stay at Safe Harbor.

“I was using and not functional. Breaking that cycle was hard,” he says.

On his first stay at Safe Harbor, he remembers feeling uncomfortable, not knowing anyone. “It was like being out on the street, but in an enclosed space, like being squeezed into a box,” Martin explains. Once he started getting to know people at the shelter, he started to feel more comfortable.

“Many people don’t realize that the shelter is a community of people who are all in the same boat. You’re not forced to be here. It’s a choice. If you want, you can make it work for you,” says Martin.

It has taken time, but over his last three stays at Safe Harbor, Martin made a conscious choice to live a different lifestyle. He is now drug free, but the road has not been easy…

(Story continued next week. Check back to read more about Martin’s journey.)