Linda Swan is program director for the Living Room, SonomaCounty's only daytime drop-in center for homeless women andchildren. Like most North Bay charitable organizations, the LivingRoom is feeling today's economic pinch. Asked what has changed inthe current climate, Swan cites not only increasing numbers ofhomeless due to foreclosures, job cuts and a tightening localrental market, but also more frequent visits by current clients,while resources continue to diminish. These accelerating problemsare wrapped around myriad acute, chronic and even insolublechallenges homeless women and children face, even in the very bestof times.
"Now we're seeing families whose rental properties wereforeclosed upon." Swan says. "Twenty percent of our clients areliving on the streets. Emergency shelters are full. And some women,particularly those suffering from mental illness, don't feelcomfortable in shelters, even if they have available space."
One local business is lending the Living Room a helping hand. RuScott, owner of the Santa Rosa women's boutique Punch, togetherwith her men's store, Shank, asks concerned community members tobring "unused umbrellas, packs of underwear and packs off socks inboth women and children's sizes, as well as children's pajamas andslippers" to either of her two stores by Christmas Eve. Anyonedonating to the Living Room gets a 10 percent store discount onthat day's purchases.
The Living Room has served homeless women and children in SantaRosa for 15 years. It currently provides everything from informalcomforts, like a hot meal and a warm safe place to hang out, tocaseworker services through its Pathways to Housing program, havingrelocated 73 women and children into homes over the past 17months.
One-on-one and group discussions are also offered. Weekly groupdiscussion topics include financial dealings, honing social and jobsearch skills, as well as exploring ways to develop trust inestablishing and maintaining safe, healthy and enduringrelationships.
Linda Swan says the Living Room welcomes assistance fromindividuals and businesses like Ru Scott's, stressing that theLiving Room is likewise in critical need of both direct in-kind aswell as monetary donations to help see them through this holidayseason.
To contribute directly to the Living Room, contact Arlene at707.579.0142 or go to their website www.thelivingroomsc.org andclick on "How can I help?" Donated items can be dropped off atPunch, 711 Fourth St., or Shank, 315 D St. Both stores are locatedin downtown Santa Rosa.
to theeditor about this story.