By Dianne Anderson
Everyone who has flocked to the Inland Empire over the past few years in search of more affordable housing has been in for a big surprise.
Housing is about as expensive in the High Desert as anywhere else in the region.
Community advocate Sharon Green sees a lot of suffering.
It’s hard enough for the average family to find affordable housing these days, let alone those who are already homeless or within the prison reintegration community.
“Even though it’s more affordable here, our affordable housing is out of reach, especially since the pandemic,” said Ms. Green, CEO/President and Founder of Victor Valley Family Resource Center.
It helps hundreds of people in need with emergency shelter, transitional housing and shared housing for the homeless, with a focus on helping the existing prison reintegration population. It also offers utility and rental assistance services, life skills training, and mental health therapy services in partnership with several local agencies.
During the pandemic, she said they needed to get creative with online advice and outreach via social media.
Most of the population they serve needs housing and utility assistance. More than half of its customers are returnees, but it also caters to the rental needs of the growing elderly population and serves the general homeless.
“We work with people at risk of deportation, we serve them when they have 3 days Pay or Quit notice. Since the pandemic, landlords and landlords are now evicting people because they know they can get more rent,” said Green, president of the San Bernardino County Homeless Provider Network.
Green’s organization was one of 16 nonprofit groups funded in the first round of $740,000 in grants awarded earlier this year through a partnership between the IE Black Equity Fund, IE Funders Alliance and Inland Empire Community. Foundation.
The pandemic has taken a toll on local bus transportation, but they have to get their customers to appointments.
Funding will be of great help for this and more.
“We can accommodate up to 24 people in a house, our electricity in the summer costs around $500 a month. We will apply that money to public services and help get our customers where they need to be,” said Green, a board member for the San Bernardino County Interagency Council on Homelessness.
She also praised Patricia Nickols-Butler of the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County for her food aid, especially now that prices are skyrocketing.
Getting customers back on track takes a high level of commitment, but it can be done, she said. They have strict rules and a curfew. There is a job search requirement.
They see a success rate of around 85% for their reintegration clients who move into permanent housing, find employment and get their lives back on track, she added.
“We connect them to therapy because many of our clients struggle with mental health issues in life and growing up,” she said. “We do the intake and assessment to connect them to the services they need, which makes the transition a little easier.”
Services are open Tuesday through Friday, and they also receive referrals from clients from various providers, state and local, as well as 211. A support team is available through their nine-member staff to provide services complete.
“No matter what, they have a support system. We work with the Department of Behavioral Health, they connect with our therapy, and some of my staff have the same story. They went through that journey and changed their lives,” she said.
Some clients live in their shared homes, and speakers come out to connect with their clients, men and women, and talk about what it takes to change their lives. Most of the time, it starts with their way of thinking about life.
“They talk to guys and young girls about the importance of changing your mind about your situation,” she said. “When you change your mind, the tools are there to keep you on track.”
For her, working with the homeless and the most needy is just the continuation of a family tradition. She said many of her earliest childhood memories involve dealing with severe poverty.
Green, also a pastor at Higher Praise Church, grew up in a home where her mother regularly took the family to feed the homeless.
“We went to rehab centers and senior centers, and my mom raised us knowing it was the right thing,” she said. “We serve the people, it’s a mandate on our lives, they say, Oh you are a pastor can you pray for me? I say, I’m totally into it.
For more information, see https://vvfrc.org/