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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Community Collaborations at Safe Harbor Shelter

Staff at our annual Employee Appreciation Luncheon in January
Staff at our annual Employee Appreciation Luncheon in January (From Left – Kat, Eric, Precious, Laura, Salina, Gerald, Kenny, Cory, & Anje)

Samaritan House is committed to providing programs and services at Safe Harbor to meet the critical needs of those most at-risk in our community. As the 2013 San Mateo County Homeless Census and Survey illustrates, the problem of homelessness in our area continues to grow even as the local economy recovers.

Since 2011, the number of individuals living without shelter has risen 12%, according to a report released by the county’s human services agency. (view the report here) The January census counted 1,298 people living on county streets, inside vehicles or in makeshift encampments. That’s 136 more people than the 1,162 tallied just two years ago.

Sign-(web)It is this need for emergency shelter and transitional support that make the need for our Safe Harbor Shelter so profound.

Samaritan House is truly an organization of Neighbor Helping Neighbor, and we could not operate without our community’s support. We appreciate the partnerships and relationships we share with the many faith-based organizations, professional associations, schools, clubs, government, and community organizations who generously provide donations and volunteer in our shelter throughout the year.

A number of organizations and businesses have donated their time, talents, and resources to our shelter in the past year:

• The County of San Mateo’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services continues to provide weekly intake assessments and ongoing case management services for Safe Harbor clients.

• Safe Harbor clients receive free, weekly, on- site dental services from the Mobile Dental Clinic run by the San Mateo Medical Center.

• The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County conducts once-a-month sessions educating clients about various public health and assistance programs.

• Around the holidays this past year, several local organizations – including First Presbyterian Church, Millbrae Bible Church, Lion’s Club, the South City Fire Department, and United Airlines – held special events and conducted drives to benefit the shelter.

Are you or your community service group interested in volunteering or organizing a donation drive for our shelter? Please contact us to see how we can assist. With your help, we can continue to provide a safe and supportive environment where our shelter residents can focus on building brighter futures.

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.