Family Resource Center Is All In for the Needy
By Dianne Anderson
Everyone who flocked to the Inland Empire over the past few years in search of more affordable housing was 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 shelter these days, let alone those that are already homeless or within the prison reentry 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.
She helps hundreds in need with emergency shelter, transitional housing, and shared housing for the homeless with a focus on help for the existing prison reentry population. She also offers utility and rental assistance, life skills training and mental health therapy services in partnership with several local agencies.
During the pandemic, she said they had to get creative with online counseling and outreach through social media.
Most of the population they serve require housing and utility assistance. Over half of her clients are prison reentry, but she also meets the rental needs of the increasing elderly population, and serves the homeless at large.
“We are working with those at risk of being evicted, we serve them when they have a 3-Day Pay or Quit notice. Since the pandemic, owners and landlords are now evicting people because they know they can get more rent,” said Green, chairperson 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 by the IE Black Equity Fund, IE Funders Alliance and Inland Empire Community Foundation.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on local bus transportation, but they have to get their clients to appointments.
The funding will be a great help for that and more.
“We can house up to 24 people in one house, our electricity in the summer runs about $500 a month. We will apply that money towards utilities, and helping transport our clients where they need to be,” said Green, who is a board member of the San Bernardino County Inter-Agency Council on Homelessness.
She also commended Patricia Nickols-Butler with Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County for food help, especially now as prices are soaring.
Getting reentry clients back on track takes a high level of commitment, but it is doable, she said. They have strict house rules, and a curfew. There is a requirement for job search.
They are seeing about an 85% success rate for their reentry clients transitioning into permanent housing, getting jobs and getting their lives back on track, she added.
“We connect them to therapy because a lot of our clients are dealing with mental health struggles from life and growing up,” she said. “We do intake, and assessment to connect them to the services they need so it makes the transition a little bit easier.”
Services are open Tuesday through Friday, and they also receive client referrals from various providers, state and local, as well as 211. A support team is available through their nine-member staff to provide wraparound services.
“Whatever is going on, they have a support system. We work with the Department of Behavioral Health, they connect to our therapy and some of my staff have the same history. They have come through that journey and changed their lives,” she said.
Some clients live in their shared houses, and speakers come out to connect with their clients, both male and female, and talk about what it takes to change their lives. Mostly, it starts with how they think about life.
“They talk to the guys and the young ladies about the importance of changing your mind about your circumstances,” she said. “When you change your mind, the tools are there to stay on the straight and narrow.”
For her, working with the homeless and very needy is just a continuation of a family tradition. She said many of her earliest childhood memories involve dealing with deep poverty.
Green, also pastor of Higher Praise Church, grew up in a home where her mother regularly took the family out to feed the homeless.
“We went out to rehabilitation centers and senior center facilities, and my mom raised us in knowing that was the right thing,” she said. “We serve people, that’s a mandate on our lives, they say, Oh you’re a pastor can you pray for me? I say, I’m all in.”
For more information, see https://vvfrc.org/