SFC Helping Others – Village House FAQs

WHY AN EMERGENCY SHELTER
january2017
Why is St. Frances Cabrini opening an Emergency Shelter?
Are there other rotating shelters in operations?
St Frances Cabrini Campus 2Photo Caption Above A Google Earth Still
Why have an Emergency Shelter at a church with a school on campus?
Why aren’t more Catholic Churches participating?
Why aren’t your parishioners willing to host these people in their homes?
Will St. Frances Cabrini open this Shelter next year?

SHELTER OPERATIONS

Who is responsible for Shelter Operations?
What qualifications do people need to meet to stay at the rotating winter shelter?
Are you screening for alcohol abuse, drug use, sex offenders, and violent behavior?
How many guests do you have each night?
Is there a maximum number of nights a guest can stay?
What are the hours of operation?
What kinds of services will guests have access at the shelter?
Why have you chosen to use the Parish Office versus the Parish Hall?
Where will the guests go during the day?

SECURITY & CLEANLINESS

What kind of security will there be on site?
What are St Frances Cabrini School’s normal security protocols?
What are the rules for the guests?
How will you ensure the guests will obey the rules?
How will you ensure the St. Frances Cabrini property is not damaged?
Do you turn anyone away for drug use or other illicit activity?
How do you handle illegal activity on the site?
What structure do you have in place to deal with problems or issues?
How will you handle non-qualified homeless who show up wanting food and shelter?
Is there transportation to and from the shelter for those that don’t have a car?
Do you accept pets?
Do guests need their own sleeping bag, or do you provide a bed?
What is the plan for keeping the church and parish office clean?
How will the guests be background checked?

The four-part video series below was generously supplied by Holy Spirit Parish

FINANCING & DONATIONS

How are you paying to run this shelter?
Is the City or County giving you any money to run this shelter?
I have blankets, clothing, food, and toys that I would like to donate to the rotating shelter. Who do I talk to about that and where can I donate them?

HOW CAN I HELP?

How can I help?
How can parishioners sign up to volunteer?
How can non-parishioners sign up to volunteer?
How many volunteers per night does the rotating shelter usually have?
Is there any training for volunteers?

CONCERNS


Who can we contact if we have additional questions or concerns?

Why is St. Frances Cabrini opening an Emergency Shelter?

We are doing this for three reasons.

  1. During this winter season severe weather is likely to be the cause of death for many homeless in Santa Clara County. In light of this, the San Jose City Council has lifted the restrictions on the permitting process which allowed us and other churches to be able to open an emergency cold weather shelter beginning in January 2016 and potentially save lives. There are over 7,000 homeless in the county, and while larger plans are in motion at the City and County for a longer term solution to the lack of shelter, there is a need for a short term solution. We will only shelter 15 people out of the 7,000, but it is a start. If every faith community in the County took 15, and there are over 300 places of worship, it would make a huge impact on the homeless challenge right here where we live.
  2. Our parish has the ability and the passion for helping others. Over the past sixty years, our parish has been focused on helping vulnerable people locally, nationally and internationally. We are very blessed as a community; we are inspired to share our blessings with those in need. We have already made an impact in several communities. This shelter is an extension of the love and generosity that is driven to help those in need.
  3. Our faith as Catholics and Christ followers calls us to do this. Jesus said:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

 you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

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Are there other rotating shelters in operations?

Village House is an expanded effort from the one launched in January 2016. SFC Helping Others is now a participant in this expanded effort which hopes to operate throughout the year. As of January 1 there were 18 faith-based congregations participating in the 2017 program. The goal is to develop a rotation of participating evening shelters and supplement those with daytime warming centers.  You can find more information on Village House – An Interfaith Shelter of Hope at www.villagehousesccca.com.

Additionally there is a rotating shelter operating in the northern part of Santa Clara County called Faith in Action (http://faithinactionsv.org/) that opened in March 2012. It is a year round shelter and more than 20 faith communities are involved – including St. Joseph of Cupertino and Ascension Catholic Parishes who house the homeless for one month of the year. Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Saratoga provides meals to the shelter as well.

Another 12-month rotating shelter called Community Inns managed by InnVision operated in the downtown area until 2009. Many local Catholic Churches were part of this shelter including Transfiguration, St. Frances Cabrini and Holy Family. These same parishes are participating in the planning discussions on how they can support these Emergency Cold Weather Shelters.
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Why have an Emergency Shelter at a church with a school on campus?

In 2015, the Bishop asked all Catholic parishes to consider opening their facilities as emergency shelters during the predicted extreme weather. The City Council also asked all Faith Communities to do the same. The St. Frances Cabrini Community has had a preferential option for the poor for over the last 10 years and this request could not be ignored.

St. Frances Cabrini School is one of the safest campuses in the Diocesan school system and it has the ability to secure the school grounds and buildings with fences and lockdowns. The Church and Parish Office are separate from the school and provide the ability to separate our guests from the school children. The guests will not be on our school campus while classes are conducted. We have the ability to keep our children safe and still make a difference in the lives of these 15 guests.

We have the opportunity to witness to our children what the message of the Gospel is really all about. We can put our faith in action right in front of our kids. St. Frances Cabrini parents as well as public school parents who are parishioners have commented about the tremendous witness value this opportunity is for their children to learn compassion and caring for others and have signed up to volunteer. It is a testimony on how to live out the values of our faith as Catholics and Christians.

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Why aren’t more Catholic Churches participating?

Bishop McGrath of the Diocese of San José requested Catholic parishes to do what they are able in 2015. We will take the month of March 1 to April 5 for the rotating shelter.  We and other members of Village House continue to recruit new congregations of all faiths to join the effort. See www.villagehousesccca.com for more information.

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Why aren’t your parishioners willing to host these people in their homes?

We have had several parishioners make an offer to do just this. Often the homeless people are not comfortable being in a home after having been on the streets for a long time. A shelter provides stable residence and food even for 30 days will allow them to focus and strategize on how to get better.

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Will St. Frances Cabrini open this shelter next year?

For the past few months, the St. Frances Cabrini Parish Council has been discerning ways to help with the homelessness situation in San Jose and Santa Clara County. We have played a leading role in the development of Village House and we continue to research many ministries such as mobile food services, mobile shower services and rotating shelters. Following our effort last March/April, participants who volunteered for the program at SFC were surveyed and they overwhelmingly endorsed the effort. Based upon their response, the Council decided that St. Frances Cabrini Parish would participate in 2017 and we hope to be able to continue this effort in coming years as well. However, the standard process for obtaining permits for shelters in the City of San Jose is long, costly, and cumbersome and takes at least six months to gain approval. When the San Jose City Council voted on December 8, 2015 to lift the restrictions on the process to enable churches to serve as shelters for this winter only, the committee moved to action. The reduced restrictions were originally only for the winter of 2016.They have been expanded to include 2017 however there is no guarantee they will remain in force in coming years.

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Who is responsible for Shelter Operations?

The St. Frances Cabrini Village House Shelter will be operated by St. Frances Cabrini Volunteers under the direction of John Dahl, St. Frances Cabrini Parish Council Chairperson and a team of committed volunteer leaders. This team will coordinate and manage all aspects of the Shelter Operations. The screening of guests will be outsourced through Catholic Charities to homeless service agencies and other nonprofits that provide a variety of case management and healthcare services to the homeless population.

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What qualifications do people need to meet to be able to stay at the rotating winter shelter?

Shelter guests will be determined by a screening/referral process only, no walk-ins will be accepted. Catholic Charities (http://www.catholiccharitiesscc.org/) has agreed to take an oversight role in referring and screening potential guests for our shelter. Catholic Charities has agreements with homeless service agencies and non-profits that provide a variety of case management and healthcare services to the homeless population of Santa Clara County. All 15 guests of our rotating emergency shelter will be referred to us through these partnerships.

Referral criteria:

  • Medically fragile women at risk for death if they remained on the streets. Some will be seniors.
  • Currently clean and sober for at least three months and in an active recovery program.
  • No history of violence or sex offense. Each client will be checked against the Megan’s Law database.
  • TB screened.
  • Independent with self-care, able to manage their medications and transportation.
  • Predictable, stable behavior. Catholic Charities and the referring agencies will have known the client over a period of months, in many situations, and will know how the person behaves. This is an excellent way to screen out violent or unpredictable behavior, occasional substance use or impulsivity.


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Are you screening for alcohol abuse, drug use, sex offenders, or violence behavior?

Each guest will have a thorough psychosocial assessment by a clinician. This means that clinical professionals will have evaluated each person’s social history, mental health and substance use history, criminal/legal history, financial situation, work and school history, family history and medical history. In addition, they are assessed on the way they handle stress, cope with problems and understand the world.

All guests will be carefully screened by Catholic Charities and the referring providers. They must be clean and sober for at least three months, in active recovery programs and have no history of violence. Shelter guests will be determined by a screening/referral process only. No walk-ins will be accepted. Our partners will provide comprehensive services, including medical care, psychiatric care, social work case management, recovery services and a permanent plan for housing.

Each guest will be someone who has worked with homeless services consistently for months and is solidly engaged in care. Each person will already be working with a social worker on their permanent housing plan. They will be screened through a comprehensive psychosocial assessment from professionals who are trained to identify people with risk factors but who are determined to be safe.

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How many guests do you have each night?

The City of San Jose restricts us to a maximum of 15 people in church shelters.

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Is there a maximum number of nights a guest can stay?

We expect these 15 carefully selected guests to remain with us the entire time we are open unless they are placed in a more permanent housing, or they do not comply with the rules of the shelter.

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What are the hours of operation?

The St Frances Cabrini shelter will be open beginning March 1 every day of the week from 7:00 pm until 7:00 am for 35 days. For information on other efforts at participating congregations, their dates of operations and access to volunteer registration should you wish to help elsewhere, see www.villagehousesccca.com

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What kinds of services will guests have access at the shelter?

Our partners will provide comprehensive case management services, including medical care, psychiatric care, social work case management, recovery services and a permanent plan for housing. St. Frances Cabrini will provide food, shelter and hygiene services as well as spiritual support. We will also provide internet service; so they can continue job searches and other things required through case management.

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Why have you chosen to use the church and Parish Center versus the Parish Hall?

Initially, the committee planned to use the Parish Hall for the cold weather shelter as a self-contained location for eating and sleeping. However, the Parish leadership felt that it would be too close with space and timing to allow setup and clean-up of the shelter each day without being disruptive to the School’s children, who utilize much of the parish hall building. At that point, it was determined that the Parish Office for sleeping and feeding would be a much better choice from which to operate the shelter.

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Where will the guests go during the day?

The Village House Steering Committee is actively recruiting/ opening daytime warming centers to shelter our guests during the day. For more information on participating warming centers schedules see www.villagehousescca.com.

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What kind of security will there be on site?

The safety of our children and the neighborhood is of the utmost importance. As always, we will maintain a secure campus, and especially so while the shelter is operating. We will have a team of trained volunteers focused on campus security seven days a week, while the shelter is operating.

The shelter leadership team is working with St. Frances Cabrini School parents, who are SJPD officers, to establish the roles and responsibilities of the security staff, and several St. Frances Cabrini parishioners and school parents, who are SJPD officers, will be helping to staff the security slots.

While we do not anticipate any issues, these teams will contact the SJPD if any situation arises on campus or in the surrounding neighborhoods. Trained case workers will be on call for any issues that arise with our guests during operations. At 7:00 am, our shelter guests will be transported to several warming shelters where they will spend the day. At least five shelter staffers will be present in the morning to ensure that all residents leave the parish grounds.

We have been in contact with the SJPD and they are supportive of the emergency winter shelters. They will be on alert during shelter operations. Standard protocols that are already in effect on the school and church campus will be observed.

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What are St. Frances Cabrini School’s normal security protocols?

Our St. Frances Cabrini School’s normal safety procedures are:

  • All visitors must come in through the front gate, sign in at the office and receive a name tag.
  • The front gate will be closed at all times.
  • The back rolling gate leading out to Woodard will be locked during the school day.
  • Parents and students should not prop any gates open at any time.
  • If anyone notices a gate not closing properly, they should notify the office immediately.
  • Students are permitted to go to the bathroom only with another student during the school day.
  • If a student sees an adult on campus during school hours without a name tag on, they are to notify school staff immediately.


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What are the rules for the guests?

Currently, the rules are being finalized. We have many examples from other shelters to create our own. Once they are finalized, we will publish them to the community.

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How will you ensure the guests will obey the rules?

Our guests will be familiar with other shelter rules and how things operate. They will know that breaking any of the rules may result in not being allowed to return to the shelter.

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How will you ensure the St. Frances Cabrini property is not damaged?

The guests will be welcomed by a group of volunteers through the parish office each evening. They will be welcomed to the parish office for a shower, a meal and then escorted to sleeping quarters for the night. The guests will not have in and out privileges. In the morning, the guests will be escorted from the parish office for breakfast and a packed lunch by another group of volunteers. The guests will not be left alone in the building at any time.

A group of volunteers will be with our guests for the entire night, and a staff of volunteers will be monitoring the church and school campus during the month, the shelter is operational. There will also be a set of shelter rules that guests must abide by to provide additional security for the buildings. In the event of any unforeseen damage, the facility is covered by insurance, and we will be able to make a claim and have the repairs made.

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Do you turn anyone away for drug use or other illicit activity?

We will only be receiving guests that are referred to us and adhere to the screening criteria.

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How do you handle illegal activity on the site?

The onsite volunteers and security personnel will call the Sheriff’s Department if there is any illegal activity.

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What structure do you have in place to deal with problems or issues?

We will have overnight volunteers and security and the case workers are on call. Anything that the volunteers cannot handle will be referred to the police.

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How will you handle non-qualified homeless who show up wanting food and shelter?

Our volunteers, staff, and security personnel will refer any non-screened homeless people to 211 or Catholic Charities for options. We will provide what support for them that we are able. They will not be allowed to stay or loiter.

Most professionals who have been engaged with homeless shelters and homeless people indicate that the homeless people try very hard to stay hidden and away from situations that will attract attention. With the kind of weather predicted, it is unlikely that homeless people will linger outside in the inclement weather but will seek shelter in warming centers or other places that provide protection.

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Do you accept pets?

We will not be accepting pets.

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Do guests need their own sleeping bag, or do you provide a bed?

Guests will be provided with clean clothes, slippers, bedding, cots and hygiene kits for the time they are with us in the shelter. Guests will also have a shower each night before they have dinner. Whatever personal belongings they have will be securely stored in Parish Office Building.

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What is the plan for keeping the church and parish office clean?

During their stay, our guests will sleep in designated areas inside the Parish Office Building. We have cots and bedding for them to use and we will use the folding chairs for them as well. The parish will change the daily routine of the parish janitor to ensure that the Parish Center is cleaned every morning.

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How will the guests be background checked?

Each person will have a thorough psycho-social assessment by a clinician. This means that clinical professionals will have evaluated each person’s social history, mental health and substance use history, criminal/legal history, financial situation, work and school history, family history and medical history. In addition, they are assessed on the way they handle stress, cope with problems and understand the world. In addition, the referring agency will have known the client over a period of months, in many situations, and will know how the person behaves. This is an excellent way to screen out violent or unpredictable behavior, occasional substance use or impulsivity.

The referring agencies work with probation and parole, and know when someone is involved with the courts. In addition to this evaluation, we will be checking each client against the Megan’s Law database to confirm they are not a sex offender. The clients will not be fingerprinted.

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How are you paying to run this shelter?

Existing staff and a multitude of dedicated volunteers will staff the shelter. The cost of supplies will be covered by donations and the generosity of the parishioners through our ADA program proceeds. Neighboring parishes, who cannot open a shelter, may also provide financial support as well. To make a contribution to the St. Frances Cabrini effort, please make checks out to St. Frances Cabrini Parish and add a memo indicating the donation is for SFC Village House. ParishPay may also be utilized. Donations of prepaid cards to Target, Costco, Albertsons and Smart & Final are also welcomed. Please place them in an envelope and note they are to be used for SFC Village House. They can be dropped off at the Parish Office or in the weekly collection baskets at Mass. All donors requesting confirmation will receive a letter from the Parish some time in late April, early May following the close of the SFC shelter.

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Is the City or County giving you any money to run this shelter?

At this time, they are not providing St. Frances Cabrini with direct support though Village House has obtained a grant to be used for Mobile Showers and information on this program can be  requested from the Steering Committee of Village House at www.villagehousesccca.com

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I have blankets, clothing, food, and toys that I would like to donate to the rotating shelter. Who do I talk to about that and where can I donate them?

We are still working on a specific list of donation needs. Before bringing your items to St. Frances Cabrini, please contact SFCabrini Helping Others by emailing us SFCVols@gmail.com to discuss what you have and if it is on our list of items needed. Donation items that we cannot accept can be sent to Sacred Heart Community Services (http://sacredheartcs.org/).

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How can I help?

Please Click here to volunteer for a number of daily tasks.

Please note the following areas are managed separately by the personnel noted below and volunteers are asked to coordinate their registrations with each individual as noted.

And please pray for our guests.

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How can parishioners sign up to volunteer?

We will have a need for a large number of volunteers. We ask high school youth and adults to sign up here to volunteer. Children younger than high school may only volunteer with a parent or adult.

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How can non-parishioners sign up to volunteer?

Non-parishioners can use the same web site (Click here to volunteer) to volunteer. The same rules apply.

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How many volunteers per night does the rotating shelter usually have?

During each 12-hour period we have scheduled over two dozen volunteers on site including groups cooking meals, providing security, offering transportation and more.

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Is there any training for volunteers?

Volunteer training will be provided.  This training will occur for all volunteers at St. Frances Cabrini.  Dates and times are as follows:

Wednesday February 2, 2017 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Church
Sunday February 19, 2017 10:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in Essig Hall
Wednesday February 22, 2017 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Church
Sunday February 26, 2017 10:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in Essig Hall

Volunteers should also review the SFC Village House Operations Manual online prior to arriving at training and/or for a volunteer shift. It Can be found at: Click here

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Who can we contact if we have additional questions or concerns?

Please contact SFCabrini Helping Others at SFCVols@gmail.com.

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