All of our programs follow a Housing First model. Housing First is an internationally recognized best practice that focuses on successfully connecting individuals and families with stable, permanent housing, without preconditions or barriers to entry, so that they can more effectively address their challenges and pursue opportunities.
The bottom line is that it’s extraordinarily hard to be successful without stable housing. Housing must come first.
Housing Matters runs four different homeless shelters on our Coral Street campus. Each of these shelters serves a different population, and all are designed to provide a safe place to sleep while working with a case manager to find permanent housing. We design these spaces to be welcoming and comfortable, while also focusing on moving people forward.
We believe not all shelter is created equal, and it’s imperative for all services — shelter, case management, support services, housing navigation, and more — to ultimately move a client toward housing. Shelter can be stabilizing, but it is not the solution to homelessness.
Shelter solves sleeping. Housing solves homelessness.
Collectively, our four shelters provide beds for about 200 individuals on any given night, which are nearly half of the beds available in all of Santa Cruz County. This service can be life-changing for those who are able to access it. However, the need in our county is much larger than we are able to provide for, with an estimated 80% of our local homeless population going unsheltered — that’s approximately 1800 adults and children without shelter in our community, every night.
The Loft is a low-barrier shelter for up to 43 individuals at a time. The Loft is open to adults who are currently experiencing homelessness and who are partnering with us to end their homelessness. The goal of this shelter program is to provide a temporary and safe place while clients actively work on finding permanent, stable housing. The Loft serves some of our most vulnerable clients.
+–Recuperative Care Center
The Recuperative Care Center is an innovative medical respite program located on the Coral Street campus. This program is a collaboration between Housing Matters and the County of Santa Cruz Homeless Persons’ Health Project, Dominican and Watsonville hospitals, Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), Hospice of Santa Cruz County, Kaiser Permanente, and Central California Alliance for Health. Up to 12 individuals experiencing homelessness are able to stay at a time and recover/stabilize while receiving integrated social services including housing planning, mental health care, benefits enrollment, and substance abuse treatment. The Recuperative Care Center aims to reduce recovery time from significant medical events, and to decrease the likelihood of recurring hospital stays.
+–Rebele Family Shelter
Rebele Family Shelter provides emergency shelter for up to 28 households with children (approximately 90 individuals). Families reside in the shelter while working toward obtaining permanent housing. RFS also includes a dining facility, common areas for social interaction among residents, and play areas for children. Case managers provide support as well as coordination of community services and resources to help families who are working towards building stability and long-term self-sufficiency.
+–Page Smith Community House
Page Smith Community House is a transitional housing program — not technically a shelter — that provides up to 24 months of supportive transitional housing to 40 individual men and women. Participants live in community housing units, with individual bedrooms and shared common spaces. The program provides homeless adults the opportunity to apply for benefits, attain employment, save money, repair or establish a rental history, and take other important steps toward stability, while receiving intensive case management and other support services.
We shelter more than 200 people through the four shelters on our campus on any given night. We also serve about 260 unhoused people out in the community through programs we call support services. These programs provide case management, housing navigation, and more.
Lingo alert! Case Managers are the dedicated, hands-on coaches who help clients resolve their homelessness. Case Managers partner with their clients to understand and solve the barriers they face in getting housing. Case Managers are problem solvers who know the nuances of social services and housing in Santa Cruz County, and ensure clients are connected to all the services they need. They help clients find better jobs and be better tenants. They even support landlords.
Housing Matters recognizes that there are as many different pathways to permanent housing as there are people. Each person’s individual circumstances will require different services and strategies. As such, there are a variety of programs available through Housing Matters, each designed to serve a different demographic and level of need.
Our most robust set of programs are our housing programs, which work directly toward connecting individuals and family with permanent housing. Through a partnership with the county, we also offer the CalFresh Employment Training (CFET) program.
Many of our clients continue to receive services even after becoming housed. At Housing Matters, we know that homelessness is destabilizing and traumatizing, and that some clients will need additional support to stay housed. We work hard to make sure each housing placement is successful — each client’s success is a win for the entire community.
Housing is the heart of what we do. Every single service we provide is with the end goal of helping the client into permanent housing. While we have three formal housing programs, which you can read about below, all of our services — shelters, day services, and support programs — are administered with an eye on housing.
For some, there will be many steps before getting the keys to a place of their own. For others, a little outside support can get a person back on their feet and moving right along. We meet all clients where they are, and work with them to identify the steps they need to take to get back into permanent housing.
+–Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
PSH is a type of program that serves our most vulnerable community members, including veterans and chronically homeless individuals and families. PSH is available for our neighbors who may need supportive services indefinitely, due to a disability or other long-term circumstance.
180 Together, formerly known as 180/2020, is a multi-agency collaborative effort, established in 2012 to address chronic and veteran homelessness in Santa Cruz County, with an initial goal of housing 180 of our most vulnerable neighbors — the program has housed over 1000 people to date.
+–Rapid Re-housing (RRH)
RRH is a type of program designed to quickly assist individuals and families in returning to permanent housing. These community members do not need long-term, ongoing support; rather, they are able to stabilize and become self-sufficient after a brief period of support. We have several RRH programs that serve a variety of different demographics, from veterans, to youth, to families and individuals.
Diversion is a strategy which helps people seeking shelter avoid or get out of homelessness by assisting them in identifying immediate alternate permanent housing arrangements. In some cases, services and/or financial assistance is provided to ensure they can quickly connect to permanent housing. Diversion programs can reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness and the waitlists for other services.
Essentially, diversion is creative problem solving, looking at all possible solutions in a person’s life, and identifying solutions they may not have thought of on their own.
Through a partnership with the County of Santa Cruz, we offer the CalFresh Employment Training (CFET) program. CalFresh participants may be referred to the program, at which point they receive employment case management designed to increase their job readiness and to address the participant’s specific needs through an individualized case plan. Participants are encouraged, inspired, and taught the skills needed to get a job and to keep it. Skills include resume writing, interviewing, how to dress, and how to discuss a criminal background.
Participants may also be eligible for temporary resources, such as bus passes and short-term rental assistance.
Funding for this project was provided by the USDA. USDA is an Equal Opportunity Provider, Employer, and Lender.
Our day services are free and open to the entire community, regardless of participation in a housing or employment program. We offer hot showers daily, restrooms open 24/7, and a mailroom where over 1,000 people who don’t have a permanent address get their mail.
Our campus is also home to CalFresh enrollment, essential needs services provided by Wings Homeless Advocacy, multiple community group meetings, and more.