|SCAYD dealing with stifling budget woes
Homeless prevention work in jeopardy because of cuts from government funding
For 10 years, Sonoma County Adult and Youth Development (SCAYD) has been working with families who are on the verge of becoming homeless through no fault of their own. Jim Gaddis, SCAYD’s executive director, calls them “the working poor.”
“They’re living from paycheck to paycheck every week and we assist them with rents, home or apartment deposits and if the Medical program needs correction or wherever we can,” Gaddis said.
“They can have problems if a serious illness in the family occurs, a child needs surgery or their automobile needs major work. Its focus, as you can see, is homeless prevention.”
It’s a largely unsung but immensely vital program. But now it’s in trouble. When Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature took away the city’s redevelopment agencies and eliminated urban Community Development Commissions (CDC) more than a year ago, the impact fell heavily on SCAYD. For nearly a decade, Rohnert Park sponsored several SCAYD programs with $130,000 a year given from CDC funds.
When this funding vanished to help the state solve its own budget deficit problems, RP gave the city $130,000 of its own General Fund for one year but warned Gaddis that might be all the city could afford. The hammer fell this year, and all the city could provide for SCAYD was $46,000 plus a token $15,000 from remnants of its CDC.
Gaddis has been scrambling mightily to fill the gap. The loss of homeless prevention funds “didn’t come as a surprise,” he said. “I’ve contacted many foundations and funding grant agencies, but all have turned us down so far.”
Part of the problem is SCAYD is a local agency dealing with social problems in Rohnert Park, Cotati, Penngrove and surrounding rural areas. Local sources for funding border on the non-existent and Gaddis is aware of this.
Santa Rosa and Petaluma have their own homeless prevention agencies, but both are laden with funding problems of their own.
The SCAYD dilemma is chockfull of ironies. Newspaper and Internet headlines feature the Graton Tribe Casino giving the city $2.6 million for mitigation purposes, mostly traffic, plus another $500,000 next month under the terms of the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with Rohnert Park. Headline readers find it hard to accept this arrangement while the city slashes funding (in a much smaller amount) to the homeless prevention campaign.
“I even went to Greg Sarris, Graton tribe chairman, to see if the tribe could help. But he said his tribal board of directors told him their emphasis is to make the casino a success, they wanted to achieve their own goals first. Maybe in a year or so they might be able to help,” said Gaddis.
SCAYD still runs its many programs from portable classrooms adjacent to the former Mountain Shadows Middle School on Burton Avenue. It’s been here for years. The former middle school campus is now housing Cotati-RP Unified School District offices and an alternative high school campus.
“The problem is now,” Gaddis added. “Last year we helped out 120 households, about 300 people with forty percent of them children.”
Another irony is the casino’s arrival could easily increase homelessness in the area if households on the paycheck-to-paycheck edge become addicted to gambling and unwisely spend their rent money in casinos attempting to boost their incomes. Any increase in homeless prevention cases because of gambling losses would descend on SCAYD where current funding has been decimated.
“I’m still writing grant proposals,” said Gaddis. “But we’re running out of time.”