The East Bay has a wealth of resources available for those in need -- food pantries, homeless shelters, medical care, counseling -- but an ingredient long missing from this safety net has been a simple way to connect people in crisis with all the services that can stabilize their lives.
"If someone loses their job," Pamela Singh said, "that impacts everything -- food, shelter, medical care, all sorts of dynamics. We need to do a full needs assessment if we hope to make them sustainable again."
Singh, a Danville resident, is project coordinator for a program that hopes to do just that. The Local Integrated Networks of Care (LINC) brings together the combined assets of nonprofit and government agencies that can make people whole. Before their representatives assembled as a group, she said, not all of the disparate parts knew everything the other ones did.
"The word that comes to mind is teamwork," she said. "There is tremendous value in working as a team. We're not doing anything new. We're just collaborating."
Singh, who was inspired by her late father's community service, dived into the nonprofit sector three years ago after a 25-year career at Bank of the West, where she specialized in bringing people, processes and change together. She learned some important lessons there.
"The biggest lesson is this must be driven by the consumer," she said. "Instead of us telling you what you need, you tell us."
She likened the role to that of a service coordinator at a bank, listening to customer requests and then arranging checking accounts, safety deposit boxes, financial consulting or whatever else is needed.
"Consider the mental state a person might have in a crisis situation," she said. "Where do I go? Where do I start? How do I get help?"
LINC's pilot program, Concord Cares, is backed by the Concord City Council and will bring together 60 nonprofit and agency partners beginning in January. Included are charities such as Shelter Inc. and Loaves & Fishes of Contra Costa, plus the Concord police and chamber of commerce.
"A huge part of this model is job creation," Singh said. "That's where the chamber comes in. You can lift a person up, but if they don't have a job they'll fall back down."
In preparation for the launch, the organization recently surveyed clients at Loaves & Fishes' Martinez dining room. The foremost needs cited by respondents were housing, employment, food and health services, followed by addiction counseling, legal aid, mental health services and education.
Those at risk know what they need. The goal is to help them find it.
The survey uncovered some other noteworthy facts: 80 percent of the clients have at least a high school diploma, 75 percent are unemployed, 10 percent are military vets, and nearly all of them are anxious for a second chance.
The program will welcome applicants from four "entry points." The Monument Crisis Center, Michael Chavez Center, Central County Multi-Service Center and Concord police all will have service coordinators available for assessment needs, to make service recommendations and introduce clients to providers. The first goal is to help the homeless off the streets and on their own.
"We're already getting inquiries from other cities," Singh said. "We know we're doing the right thing."
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.