Rachel Hernandez had been sleeping on the streets of Greenfield for a year when she became pregnant with her fourth child and decided it was time to quit meth. After enrolling in an addiction recovery program at Door To Hope’s Nueva Esperanza center, she moved into Pueblo del Mar, a sober, transitional community for homeless families in Marina. She also began working at the community’s childcare center.
Eighteen months later, her son Oscar is a rambunctious fixture of the center’s playroom, with a fondness for building block towers just to knock them over. And Hernandez, 26, is applying to outside jobs in childcare as her two-year residency at the center comes to a close.
“Without this place, I don’t know where I’d be,” she says. “Probably back on the streets.”
Now Pueblo del Mar, a partnership between the Housing Authority of Monterey County and the Salinas-based nonprofit Sun Street Centers, also doesn’t know where it will be. Unless it can find funding to fill $142,000 cut from the state budget, it stands to lose a $145,000 matching contribution from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Marie Kassing, Sun Street’s deputy director of programs, hopes the county will step up to fill the gap. But on June 6, the County Board of Supervisors approved a recommended budget that slashes spending by $31.2 million, with no funds allocated to Pueblo del Mar.
Kassing hopes the long-term economic benefits of helping kids thrive is persuasive enough.
“In terms of dollars, it’s not a lot. In terms of what we contribute, it’s a huge impact,” she says. “This is the biggest cost savings to the entire county that is possible.”
Supervisor Jane Parker, who received 35 letters from Pueblo del Mar residents pleading for the county to restore funding, agrees with that logic.
“We know that you can make a relatively small investment early and have very positive outcomes,” she says. “Yet [social services] tend to be the places where we have discretion to cut. That’s one of the things that’s so frustrating and disturbing about the decisions the board made in adopting this budget.”
Pueblo del Mar has served more than 1,300 people since it was founded in 1998. It’s the only center of its kind in the region, helping homeless families with substance abuse problems achieve self-sufficiency.
Many residents also rely on CalWorks payments that will be cut by 8 percent beginning July 1.
There’s a chance, though, that labor negations could restore some county cuts and salvage some of the 322 county staff positions slated for the chopping block. The board has directed county staff to prioritize Pueblo del Mar.