Non-profit will also assist local response to COVID-19 in city’s homeless encampments
Today, Tuesday, June 16, 2020 the Martinez Homelessness Task Force, led by City Councilmember Noralea Gipner and a coalition of community and faith leaders, announced the next phase of its work with the launch of the independent Homeless Action Coalition (HAC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community benefit organization.
“Most of us take the basics for granted. But many of our neighbors don’t have that luxury,” said Gipner, President and CEO of the HAC. “Imagine not being able to wash your hands, have a warm dinner or fall asleep feeling safe each night. That stress takes a toll and can make it a challenge to heal trauma and enter the workforce. Our coalition is going to ensure all of Martinez’s unhoused residents can land on their feet and transition into housing.”
With more than 150 unhoused residents living in encampments, embankments and parking lots, Martinez has one of the highest per capita homelessness rates in Contra Costa County. With such great need, Martinez leaders were compelled to act.
Over the past year, community groups and the Martinez Homelessness Task Force have partnered to address urgent needs, most recently operating a weekly homeless service center at the Martinez Waterfront Park. There, the Bay Church and other faith partners offered showers, laundry service and toiletries. The Martinez Police Department and Contra Costa C.O.R.E. connected people to shelters and other public resources, while Contra Costa Health Services provided a free mobile clinic. Community volunteers offered haircuts and organized a clothing exchange program. Prior to COVID-19, 30-40 individuals participated in these services every week.
Moving forward, the Homeless Action Coalition will serve as a hub for these resources, coordinating strategy and funding within Martinez and its adjacent communities.
Since officially incorporating as the successor organization to the Martinez Chamber Development Corporation this past Winter, the HAC has built an internal infrastructure with a Board of Directors, a Faith Community Advisory Committee and an effective fundraising apparatus, raising nearly $30,000 from individual donors, faith organizations and labor groups prior to its formal launch today.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the HAC has already deployed four sanitation stations throughout the city to provide residents with safe and reliable access to bathrooms. It has also organized essential services for the city’s waterfront encampment, providing food, clothing, tents and other supplies to residents who agree to abide by county health rules and self-govern the area to ensure resident safety.
Once the pandemic subsides, weekly group services will return and the HAC will embark on a series of innovative projects to help unhoused residents start new careers, access affordable housing and connect with mental health services.
“By listening to the people we serve, staying nimble and recruiting our neighbors to help out, we believe we’ll be able to have a real impact,” said Jonathan Bash, Chair of the HAC board of directors. “Our region’s housing crisis is complicated, as are the structural roots of poverty. We can’t do this alone. We need people to get involved in the way that works best for them: donate, volunteer or advocate for those who need a voice.”
Residents, business owners and community leaders who wish to get involved can learn more by visiting www.homelessactioncoalition.org.