MENDOCINO Co., 8/20/21 — The Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center, which has operated a winter shelter Im Fort Bragg in past years, has announced via a statement that the organization does not plan to operate a winter shelter in this coming winter. Last year, according to the statement, the shelter served 32 individuals and cost over $103,000 to operate from January 1 through March 31, 2021. The announcement cites costs, staffing challenges, and changes in the organization as reasons that Hospitality Center will not be planning to operate a shelter this winter.
The announcement concludes, “MCHC is hopeful that a new coalition of interested community members will work together to consider other possibilities to address these unmet needs.”
Here’s the full statement:
The past year and a half of the pandemic has been a great challenge to the entire community. However, it is gratifying that great resilience and creativity in keeping friends and neighbors safe has also been actualized during these hardships. Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center (MCHC) is very grateful for the continuing support shown for their organization and the people that they support experiencing homelessness and other conditions related to poverty.
From January 1 to March 31,2021, despite many obstacles, MCHC was able to provide a three-month Winter Shelter for those living rough. MCHC would like to acknowledge and thank Trinity Lutheran and Coast Christian Churches for the use of their facilities; the Mendocino Jewish Community, Fort Bragg First Presbyterian, Grace Community churches and others for providing hot soups every weekend. Mendocino County and the Continuum of Care designated the funding for the shelter and City of Fort Bragg paid for a wage enhancement that helped motivate job seekers to apply. In addition, the loyal MCHC employees who have continued to provide all services of the organization all year also deserve recognition for their efforts and the vital nature of their work.
Historically, the organization is based on the idea that people have setbacks and challenges in their lives and find themselves in extreme poverty, houseless and hungry. The Hospitality House was established to help people with their basic survival needs while providing support and resource services to help individuals and families get back on their feet and off the streets.
Much of homelessness is fueled by economic conditions and lack of adequate housing, but also by despair, domestic violence, mental illness, and substance use issues. 365 days a year, the Hospitality House provides shelter, food, showers, and laundry facilities for those in need. MCHC has added ser vices over the years including housing navigation, Specialty Mental Health Services, vocational training and group classes, access to phones, internet, mail delivery, 24 Transitional Housing beds, and a Street Medicine program. People who benefit most from these services are those who are able and willing to participate in a “path to personal wellness”.
Unfortunately, people with serious mental illness and/or addiction issues often do not have the capac ity for “finding that path” without more assistance. Assistance that MCHC is not funded to provide. The need for sheltering those who experience protracted and short-term street level homelessness, but who are not able or willing to use the services of the Hospitality House or Center is an acute issue here and elsewhere, that is particularly critical during inclement weather. The Coast Winter Shelter has saved the lives of many of those individuals over the years.
This past season, the Winter Shelter served approximately 32 individuals – 19 of whom have utilized the Winter Shelter in more than one previous season. There was only one intake for Specialty Mental Health Services. All Winter Shelter guests have been assessed for Coordinated Entry with only a hand-ful
keeping a subsequent appointment with a Housing Case Manager. Most of those who utilized last season’s Winter Shelter have not been seen at the Hospitality Center since the program ended. It is very disappointing that the majority of those who use the Winter Shelter refuse all but the bare minimum required to receive shelter and the success rate for remaining off the streets long term when the Winter Shelter closes each year is dismal.
The cost for the Winter Shelter this past year was $103,473 for three months of operation. This is just under half of the annual operating budget for the Hospitality House for one year – a program that shelters 24 people year-round and that MCHC struggles to fund year after year. Additionally, the cost of the Winter Shelter was twice the cost of the Transitional Housing annual operating budget – a pro-gram, which is self-funded, operates on a shoestring budget, and shelters an additional 24 people year-round. The average nightly stays at the Winter Shelter this season were only 5 individuals per night.
Even pre-COVID, MCHC had trouble staffing the temporary Coast Winter Shelter. Every year, few ap applicants are qualified for this work. This season was no different even with the COFB wage enhancement. This creates a burden of additional duties placed on staff already working full time in their year-round duties.
The Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center (MCHC) staff and board have seriously grappled with the is-sue of providing this temporary service for several years. The Winter Shelter has always been a very complicated and demanding program for the entire organization. This past year highlighted that extreme difficulty. After much deliberation and anguish, the MCHC Board of Directors has made the difficult decision not to operate the Winter Shelter for the upcoming season.
The statement from Executive Director, Paul Davis , states: “Between the ongoing uncertainty around finding staff and program locations, the extra demands on staff, safety and liability issues, and the dis parity of expense and delayed payments between Winter Shelter and year-round shelter programs, we do not feel it is responsible for our organization to operate the Winter Shelter this season. MCHC has embarked on a new management structure, and we are working on strengthening our strategic goals. We intend to focus our funding and staff attention on the services and programs MCHC provides year round that support and help people in this community move forward with their lives. Those who suffer from untreated addictions and mental health issues resulting in intractable street level home-lessness, need a different level of service than what is offered by the Winter Shelter or our other ser-vices. There must be another way or other types of services to address this critical need.”
MCHC is hopeful that a new coalition of interested community members will work together to consider other possibilities to address these unmet needs.
Please contact [email protected] or call (707) 961-0172 x1100 for more information.