gmhTODAY 21 gmhToday Aug Sept 2018 - Page 34

How You Can Help South County organizations need food, supplies, volunteers and donations to sustain programs for transitional hous- ing, health and mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, emergency rent and utility assistance, and more. Community Solutions 408.779.2113 Destination:Home 408.513.8700 Gilroy Compasion Center, Project Connect Edward Boss Prado Foundation 408.778.7411 Gilroy Compassion Center 408.763.7120 Loaves & Fishes loavesfi Army Veteran Finds Way Home One Step Closer 778.3567 Rebekah Children’s Services 408.846.2100 Santa Clara County Offi ce of Supportive Housing St. Joseph’s Family Center 408.842.6662 Plan to End Homelessness: 2015-2020-community-plan-to-end- homelessness BBQ Dinner & Barn Dance Gilroy Compassion Center Fundraiser August 25 th • 6:30-10:30pm 3465 Susie Lane • Gilroy BBQ dinner, silent auction, raffl e, en- tertainment, and barn dance. Proceeds benefi t programs serving the Gilroy homeless. Tickets: compassionfunnight. 34 to interacting, trusting, and enjoying themselves.” “They want to be of service to other vets and the community,” Lesnik added. “Many continue as volunteers for OSC after their VA program is complete. It comes full circle.” Julie enlisted in the Army at age 21. Four years later she was medically discharged for PTSD. She moved to the western U.S. to attend college. During those years, she was in and out of the hospital for symptoms related to her untreated PTSD. She also experienced homelessness and food insecurity. “I had tuition payments but wasn’t getting GI benefits yet,” she said. “I couldn’t find a job or housing. Next thing I knew I was living in my car and eating out of dumpsters.” When her GI Bill benefits kicked in a few months later, Julie went back to school, earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work, and began receiving proper treatment for her PTSD. She moved to California and began to work for the VA. “Getting people housed is one thing but if you don’t have a job and don’t know how to maintain a house, what caused your homeless ness is still a problem,” Julie explained. “You really need the wraparound services. Like any- one else, veterans don’t fit in a box. We need to meet them where they are. And they need to be living where they have support services.” “Today, I think about my housing GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 constantly. Homelessness is not some- thing I want to go through again.” Guiding the Homeless Effort Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee served 30 years on the force, retired in 2015, and was rehired in 2017 with the home- lessness crisis looming large. “The homeless are sometimes charged with ‘quality of life’ crimes after creating a disturbance in the community,” Smithee said. “Their court appearances are scheduled on the same day of the week that service providers are onsite to offer help. Those who accept help often get their charges dismissed.” Since returning to office, Chief Smithee has drafted a Homeless Plan for Gilroy in partnership with the City of Gilroy, Gilroy Compassion Center, St. Joseph’s Family Center, Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing and Behavioral Health Departments, and other organizations. At the time of this writing, the plan was nearing presentation to the Gilroy City Council. Smithee said the goal is to get additional resources in the form of Homeless Response Advocates equipped to assess the needs of the homeless and provide rapid referrals to services—every- thing from access to public restrooms to addressing undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorders to job finding. “There’s the need for a continuum of care for homeless individuals rather than making homelessness a law enforcement problem that we’re responding to with a criminal justice solution.”