The beleaguered homeless population of Vallejo regained some dignity in Vallejo on Saturday.
Dignity Day, a biannual event presented by the Solano Dream Center at the Transformation Village, included mobile showers, free haircuts, hot meals, free clothes and shoes, health checkups, spiritual care, social services , mental health services, housing support and transportation. The event is sponsored and supported by Fighting Back Partnership, Vallejo Together, Solano County, Arn Norcal, D’s Mobile Cute Love, Vallejo Mobile Health, Lighthouse Covenant Fellowship and the Solano Dream Center.
Again, Dr. Michael Hester was one of the main organizers.
“This event is about building relationships within the community,” Hester said. “We try to let them know that if they want to come here and get help, they can come here and get it. Homeless people often don’t open up to people they don’t know, so we’re immobile in the sense that we can be there for them if they need us.
SOS – Solano Options & Support, whose manager, Jeanatte Blanks, beamed when a homeless citizen told her he was ready to take the first step for help, helped the event.
“We’re all thrilled when they say that,” Blanks said. “A team like ours, it’s imperative to be flexible and let homeless people know we’re here to help them get to where they need to be. But there are so many obstacles. We are progressing little by little with them. If they say they are ready to be helped, then we are ready to help them.
SOS was also assisted by Michele Bunker Alberts, an assistant professor at Touro University and a registered nurse.
“You have to have the mindset when you’re helping that maybe today isn’t the day for them, but maybe tomorrow will be the day,” Alberts said. “Half the people who come today, we already know that. They have our phone numbers and our contact details. We see ourselves as protectors for them and as someone they can trust.
SOS case manager Tamisha Lee agreed. She says the group visits the camps at least twice a week to see what is needed, but also to establish a level of trust.
“We want to let them know how it works, but each case is unique,” Lee said. “Where they live, what they use, how they got there, everything is unique. We need to streamline a sailing plan for them and seize the opportunity for them when they are ready.
Taking advantage of the services was Glen Falkenstein, who was getting a free haircut from DeDe Scrivner-Bosuego. DeDe, along with husband David Boseugo, combined to give away around 30 haircuts during the four-hour event.
“I love it, I’ve been doing this event for about two years,” DeDe said. “Just a little of my time can make a big difference to them.”
Mary Ann Buggs, who helps organize Faith Food Fridays in Vallejo, was also on hand to hand out free lunches.
“I’ve been coming to this event for a little while because I tend to see people here that I don’t normally see and I can help them out,” Buggs said. “This is a very encouraging event for homeless people. What I really love is seeing them come in and someone taking them around so they can see everything that is available to them. It helps, especially when they don’t know where to go. I was happy to partner with Mike (Hester) and it’s nice to see this event come together so we can do more for people in need.
Joey Carrizales, a longtime housing advocate, was also present.
“I love seeing the increased amount of unsheltered confidence in the event and then continuing to get the help and services that they so desperately need,” Carrizales said. “Whether it’s showers, clothing, housing services, spiritual services, it’s absolutely wonderful when you see what this collaboration can do.
Carrizales, once homeless himself, knows what the homeless are dealing with.
“People ask, ‘Why doesn’t anyone care about us?’ “said Carrizales. “Why are we treated like this and who will listen to us? People who come here need these services and they need to build relationships with people so they can get help. But the first part of that is trust. How to establish trust? By listening and understanding. For me, I see the world through their eyes. I understand their anger, their depression and their mistrust. So this event is a good event to help change things for them.