Letter to the Editor, by Councilmember Noralea Gipner: Homelessness issue a priority

As many of you are aware, working on the homelessness problem is a priority for our city. Homelessness has increased, not only regionally, but throughout the state and nation. Over the last few years we have been focusing on linking people with services to get them help and into housing. This is a complicated problem that we have been focusing on with a collaboration between us, Contra Costa County, and the City of Pleasant Hill. Even though we have made good strides, we have much more to do.

One of our recent pilot projects that Chief Sappal, Officer Brinser and I have been working on for months is providing mobile showers for the homeless. The project began with The Bay Church of Concord as they wanted to help the homeless. The Bay Church has been successfully providing monthly laundry services for the last seven years at the Laundry Basket on Pacheco Blvd. They provide laundry services, haircuts, as well as meals and clothing. We believe in their vision of providing showers to the homeless and partnered with them to pilot the service in Martinez. This also gives us an opportunity to try to connect our homeless population to services.

The shower trailer is 40-feet long and has four shower stalls. Starting August 7, The Bay Church will have a portable shower trailer parked on Green St. alongside the Senior Center. The event will run from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will take place every Wednesday. The Senior Center will assist with the use of their staff parking lot to allow County Health Services to respond with their 30-foot mobile medical van, which will provide services to include medical and mental health services. Our CORE team will be at Loaves and Fishes, who will be part of this effort, to provide their services in hopes of helping people get into a shelter.

We are starting this pilot project at this location near Loaves and Fishes because this is where homeless clients go to eat each day. Once we establish a relationship and trust with our clients, the program will be easier to move to a different location. We have been searching for a more permanent location in the downtown/waterfront park area for several months and have had difficulty finding something large enough.

The Bay Church will have their parishioners assisting as sole volunteers for this program. Their parishioners have been volunteering at the monthly laundry service and are now dedicating their time to the shower project. I am hoping that we can gather some volunteers from our community to help with our program. If interested please email me ngipner@cityofmartinez.org.

Our program will benefit not only the homeless population but also the citizens of Martinez. A simple shower and a haircut can improve mental happiness and self-esteem. When you look and smell better you feel better about yourself and can fit in the community more easily. This also assists with hygiene and public health – our partnership with the County will allow their mobile medical team to assist us in providing services from one location at the same time the showers are used as well as the time when Loaves and Fishes serves our community.

Homelessness is a complicated problem and there is no easy solution. We are working on managing this problem as best as we can and need your help, understanding, compassion, and tolerance as we continue to tackle this issue.

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