No Place Like Home

Since 2005, Dorothy’s Place in the Chinatown neighborhood of Salinas has offered shelter services to a handful of homeless women. The program, Women Alive, serves an average of 12-16 women per night, and has been open every night for more than a decade – until May 1.

That’s when the board of the Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra, the nonprofit that operates Dorothy’s, closed the shelter, faced with a $300,000 funding shortfall.

“Women Alive serves the fewest number of clients and also has the highest cost per client,” says Executive Director Jill Allen. (It costs about $382,000 a year, about a third of operating expenses.)

Part of the shortfall – about $64,000 – comes from a grant approved in December by the state and meant to pass through the city of Salinas then on to the nonprofit. But that money still hasn’t been released by the state, impacting cash flow at Dorothy’s.

It also offers a window into the government funding used to support services like Women Alive. Last year, Salinas City Council approved $100,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money for Dorothy’s. But of that $100,000 for the 2016-17 fiscal year – which ends on June 30 – Dorothy’s Place has so far claimed less than $9,000.

“There are a lot of unspent funds on the table,” says Megan Hunter, director of the Salinas Department of Community Development. “We are entrusted with public dollars. We want to make sure the monies are spent.”

It has been spent, Allen says, or will be – they’re just behind schedule on filing invoices with the city. “I’m confident we can spend it all,” she says. Besides, she adds, it’s earmarked for a new health center – not a shelter.

Hunter plans to bring a proposal for CDBG funding for the 2017-18 fiscal year to City Council on May 16, and recommends allocating $100,000 again, including $30,000 earmarked for emergency shelter services.

Allen’s goal is to reopen by June 1, while a seasonal shelter – jointly run by the county and the city – is still operating through May 31, after a one-month extension.

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Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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