February 14, 2013
Soledad Street in Salinas’ Chinatown is typically noisy, bustling with the conversations and occasional outbursts of the homeless who live or seek services there. But the sound that dominated the street this morning was different: It was Tin Man, a band fronted by a formerly homeless man, blasting a Jimi Hendrix tune.
Today’s Valentine’s Day barbecue was the first collaborative effort by service organizations to meet with homeless residents, said Katherine Thoeni, executive director of Central Coast HIV/AIDS services. In the past individual organizations have held barbecues, but this time several came out, including the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers and Sun Street Centers, a drug and alcohol center.
The goal was to establish relationships with the chronically homeless and provide some services like Hepatitis C and HIV testing, along the way. It was also to bring organizations that work with the homeless closer together.
Teamwork between service providers is rare, says Seth Pollack, director of CSU Monterey Bay’s service learning program. To his knowledge there hasn’t been a time when all the organizations have worked together at once like this.
Following the barbeque the providers planned to meet to discuss goals for future collaboration.
Despite the smells wafting off the grill, Soledad Street seemed fairly empty around noon. This could be because of the city’s sweep that cleared out the homeless encampments at the end of last month.
The homeless may be slower to move back because the city put a fence around some of the property people were living on, says Rick Slone, coordinator at the soup kitchen Dorothy’s Place. Nevertheless, along much of the street the blankets and makeshift homes that had been driven out in January were already back in sight.
Though there were only a few dozen homeless people at the barbecue by noon, organizers expected more to show up for lunch within the hour. They expected to feed 100 to 150 people, about the same number of people who go to Dorothy’s Place regularly.
Organizers say they hope to perform similar outreach efforts quarterly.