Reports from the field
Finding Safety in Housing
Four SOS staff members who lived at the Castro St. RV encampment moved in the past 2 weeks into interim and permanent housing, thanks to the Contra Costa County CORE team. These SOS employees have been serving Castro to help improve safety at the unregulated encampment.
CORE is the Coordinated Outreach, Referral, Engagement program which connects homeless residents to safety net services and housing.
SOS Streets team member Ferose Bassier and his partner Margaret Huffman were recently able to move into Delta Landing in Pittsburg. Delta Landing is the County’s state-of-the-art 172-unit interim housing facility with basic healthcare, housing navigation, and case management services provided on-site to help residents recover from homelessness and find permanent housing.
Ferose and Margaret had been living in their car for nearly two years, then moved into a pop-up camper in the Castro encampment, where Ferose has committed his energy to SOS as a Local Steward with the strong potential to help provide a range of expanded encampment services there. The couple says they were bullied and harassed at Castro because of their interracial relationship and jumped at the chance to move. They are already visiting a permanent housing arrangement for a rapid rehousing opportunity.
Jewel Morse, a SOS Streets Team member for the last two years, and her partner Trey, lived in a tent near Wildcat Creek until coming to Castro after several aggressive evictions from this park location in San Pablo. “It’s great to have a shower, a microwave, a bed. In tent living”, Jewel said, “it was a pain in the butt just to get hot water. You have to gather wood, start a fire. It takes a good portion of your day.” Through all of Jewel and Trey’s long period of instability, Jewel has remained dedicated to her role as a Streets Team member and a Local Steward at Castro.
O’Neill Fernandez and Cyntha Simpson have been a couple since they met in an El Sobrante Richmond homeless camp 4 years ago, before coming to Castro. Over the years they’ve couch-surfed, lived in tents, a car, a trailer, a house-share with bedbugs, and two months of seeking safety in an economy motel with their newborn daughter, Kailynn.
This weekend they gave back to El Sobrante, cleaning its illegal dumping and encampments as part of National Cleanup Day, even as they settled into their new permanent housing in Richmond.
Their newfound stability and security will permit O’Neill and Cyntha to take turns caring for Kailynn as they each build programs that deepen support at encampments like Castro. As Outreach Team Leader, O’Neill will craft a dedicated team that provides peer-based problem solving and goal setting at Castro and elsewhere. Cyntha anticipates expanding her Shower Power Team Leader role as Richmond finds opportunities to further develop encampment services and deploy these at places such as Castro.
Above, Ferose Bassier and Margaret Huffman; below, O'Neill Fernandez & Cyntha Simpson;
Bottom, Jewel Morse.