Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, June 24 @ 2:41 p.m. / Homelessness
Del Norte Mission Possible Receives $200,806 For An Emergency Shelter; Nonprofit Seeking Other Funding to Realize Goal
Nearly two-and-a-half years after Daphne Cortese-Lambert and her board of directors founded Del Norte Mission Possible, the nonprofit is one step closer to realizing her long-standing goal — opening a full-time rescue mission in Del Norte County.
Del Norte Mission Possible entered into a three-year sub recipient agreement with the county Department of Health and Human Services to receive about $200,806 in Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Program grant dollars. It’s a milestone, said Cortese-Lambert, DNMP’s director of homeless services. But additional funding is needed to bring the old Our Daily Bread Ministries building at 1135 Harold Street in Crescent City up to code.
“We probably have about half the money we need, but we really don’t know until we get inside there,” she told the Wild Rivers Outpost, adding that they’re looking at state and federal sources of funding. “Whenever you open up an old building like that you never know what you’re going to come across.”
Shortly after Del Norte Mission Possible’s board first met in November 2019, the organization had come up with a plan to run an emergency shelter out of Our Daily Bread Ministries. Though its building needed a sprinkler system, Our Daily Bread would continue running its meal program. But then COVID-19 hit, Cortese-Lambert said.
The nonprofit had been working with the county to obtain funding for the emergency shelter. But costs for building materials have gone up and she said she was told there are electrical problems at the Our Daily Bread building.
The agreement with the county will allow Del Norte Mission Possible to install a sprinkler system, heating, insulation and a false ceiling to meet fire code regulations, according to the county’s June 7 staff report. Other upgrades may include a commercial washer and dryer, guest bathrooms “and other improvements necessary to complete the shelter plans to accommodate at least 17 beds.”
According to Charlaine Mazzei, Del Norte Mission Possible’s executive director, the nonprofit needs to get a current estimate of the cost of the work that needs to be done. Not only has the cost for labor and materials changed, but the scope of work has changed, she said.
“We need to do more to bring the building up to current code and DNMP would like to purchase the building from Our Daily Bread Ministries instead of leasing it,” Mazzei told the Outpost via email Friday. “My rough guess is that it will cost at least twice as much as the funds in the county contract that was just approved, but that may not be accurate.”
Mazzei said she has been looking into Rural Development Community Facilities programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as potential Community Development Block Grant funding. But they may be available later than the nonprofit would like, she said.
“The current homeless funds that are coming through the state are focused on permanent housing or on facilities that have individual rooms,” she said. “I haven’t had any luck in finding a specific homeless services program that will fund congregate shelter renovations, but I keep looking.”
Donations toward a building fund would also be appreciated, Mazzei said.
At full capacity Del Norte Mission Possible’s shelter will have 60 beds, though Cortese-Lambert said the program will start small. Beds are going to be set aside for people coming out of the hospital, two rooms will be set aside for families and beds will be set aside for youth under 18.
There will also be case management involved, though Cortese-Lambert said because it’s an emergency shelter the philosophy will be housing first.
According to Cortese-Lambert, the model will be based on Rogue Retreat’s Kelly Shelter in Medford, Oregon.
“We’re going to accept people that still have substance abuse (issues). We want to get them housed first and give them a place where they feel safe and secure,” she said. “After about a week’s time, we meet with them and look at where we go from there and we give them the tools to be able to get the things they need like IDs, birth certificates, MediCal — all of the things we need to be able to survive. A lot of times when people are out on the street, it takes them awhile to be able to just feel safe enough to be, ‘OK, I can breathe and I can start dealing with the things I need in life to be able to remove the barriers to housing.’”
With help from Del Norte County’s Behavioral Health Branch and Sutter Coast Hospital, Cortese-Lambert envisions Del Norte Mission Possible becoming a navigational center for those who are homeless to access the necessary service to find permanent housing.
According to the latest Point-in-Time survey, 462 individuals identified as homeless in Del Norte County. Cortese-Lambert said this was the most accurate depiction of homelessness in Del Norte than previous surveys have shown thanks in large part to her efforts to get those who are unhoused involved in administering the survey.
Of the 462 people surveyed, 227 reported sleeping in an outdoor encampment and 108 reported sleeping in a vehicle, boat or RV. Sixty-nine reported finding shelter through an emergency shelter, transitional housing or permanent supportive housing program and 226 people reported being homeless for more than three years.
Since making its debut in 2019, Del Norte Mission Possible has founded a transitional housing program for women and has partnered with the county and the Wild Rivers Community Foundation to offer showers to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cortese-Lambert has also worked with those who are unhoused to help clean up the community, spearheading the Winter Shelter-in-Place program which provides food, tarps, phone chargers and other necessities in exchange for trash pickup. These folks have offered to volunteer when the emergency shelter is up and running, Cortese-Lambert said.
“It gives people purpose,” she said. “And who better to work with other people and inspire them and let them know that, ‘Hey, there’s a way out'?"