Items purchased by the department for donation. Photo provided by SBC Behavioral Health.
Items purchased by the department for donation. Photo provided by SBC Behavioral Health.

This article was contributed by San Benito County Behavioral Health.

The San Benito County Behavioral Health Department has implemented measures to ensure public safety is the primary focus during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. With the shelter-in-place order issued on March 18, the department has been attentive to the highest needs for services in the community.

Behavioral Health has been able to issue funds to help the homeless and at-risk of homelessness population with mental illness. The funds have been redistributed from existing homeless programs within our department. Due to excellent planning and budgeting from our director and finance department, we have been able to allocate funds from a total of $200,000 designated for homeless mentally ill programs. With some adjustments, we are able to maintain the quality of our existing programs through the end of this fiscal year with $150,000 of those funds while still providing additional assistance to outside agencies who serve the same population with the remaining amount.

The department has reached out to local agencies including the Salvation Army, My Father’s House, the homeless shelter, and the Health and Human Services Agency to see where the needs are and identify how we can help. It was clear that the primary concern of people being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is securing and maintaining housing, along with obtaining basic products that many of us take for granted.

With the shelter-in-place order, many people in the category of identified non-essential jobs are now at a loss of income and causing a strain on their way of life. People are expressing that they are concerned about having to pay their rent, or now being unable to secure a stable home because of this pandemic. The situation we are confronted with is causing anxiety and stress and we want to assure that we do what we can to minimize emotional and psychological distress on our community. Because of these concerns we have arranged through one of the deputy directors of the county health and human services to provide funding to assist with their current homeless program efforts. Behavioral Health has been able to donate approximately $50,000 to assist the community with obtaining and retaining housing during this pandemic. We are grateful to be able to join our allied partner agencies to provide this much needed assistance to the community.

Behavioral Health has also purchased items that will be distributed to two other community agencies. One agency is My Father’s House, an organization that provides shelter and meals to the homeless population. Because of the shelter-in-place order, they are unable to provide shelter but have continued and increased their efforts to provide meals to those most in need. Along with meals, My Father’s House also provides needed items such as toiletries, blankets, and some clothing to those who need it. The other agency the Behavioral Health Department is assisting is the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has also seen an increased volume of people contacting them requesting housing assistance and basic hygiene products. The high demand is attributed to those who have been unable to work and receive a steady paycheck.

To this date, among many items deemed essential for the agencies, we have donated over 400 dinner plates, over 520 square feet of aluminum foil for food distribution, 100 pairs of socks, over 1,000 pieces of cutlery, 100 bottles of shampoo, 100 bottles of lotion, 100 sticks of deodorant, 50 tubes of toothpaste, and $100 in gas cards for those using their own car to deliver food to the homeless,.

Behavioral Health is proud to be able to assist the community in this time of need. We are grateful to have resources allowing us to focus on these issues during this time of need.  We thank our partner agencies such as My Father’s House, Salvation Army, and Community Service and Workforce Development for ensuring that the help is given where it is most needed.

For more information on housing assistance, please contact Health & Human Services Agency at (831) 630-5120.

For information on My Father’s House, please contact (831) 801-7775.

For information on The Salvation Army, please contact (831) 838-9832.

For information on Behavioral Health Department, including on how to receive behavioral health services, please contact (831) 636-4020, or visit us at 1131 San Felipe Road, Hollister, CA 95023.