Elliott Robinson

Elliott Robinson retired last year from his long career in social services—including 17 years as director of the Monterey County Department of Social Services—and with retirement come some perks, like vacationing during the summer with the grandkids. But Robinson is only sort of retired.

Right before his long-planned two-week vacation, he was tapped to step in and take over as interim executive officer of the Coalition of Homeless Service Providers, the nonprofit announced on July 11.

“I wasn’t looking for work,” Robinson says by phone. Nevertheless, he agreed to support the Coalition’s board in an extreme time of need. The previous longtime executive, Katherine Thoeni, resigned suddenly on June 9, right as more than $12 million in California Homeless Emergency Assistance Program funds needed to be distributed.

Jill Allen, the Coalition’s board president, and three other board members quickly stepped in after her departure and helped staff keep up with necessary deadlines. They also helped with an already in process move from the former offices in Marina to a new office in Seaside.

They turned to Robinson, who even after he retired continued to serve as a community member of the Coalition’s Leadership Council. Thoeni established the council during her tenure, gathering together mayors, county supervisors, nonprofit leaders and social service government employees to advise on homeless issues.

Robinson was one of the members of the Leadership Council who voted on May 29, which agencies in Monterey and San Benito counties would be receiving HEAP funds. Little did he know then he’d be administering the resulting contracts.

Those contracts include $6 million to Monterey County and the city of Salinas to build a permanent homeless shelter near Natividad and $1.3 million for the first shelter built on the Monterey Peninsula in Seaside, through a partnership between Community Human Services and Gathering for Women.

Robinson does not expect any issues with distributing HEAP funds. His main goals will be to give the Coalition board advice on how to strengthen the organization moving forward and to hire someone to take over as the permanent executive officer.

“The expectation is that we hire someone by the end of September, for me the sooner the better,” he says. “The important thing is to hire the best person we can—I just want to make sure our community is well served.”

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