The Task Force for the Homeless is working to expand the availability of Affordable and Permanent Supportive Homes for homeless people with disabilities. The lack of housing affordable to people with very low incomes is one reason local shelters are full and 3/4 of our homeless residents must survive without shelter.  In October of 2011, we facilitated the groundbreaking donation by Luther Burbank Savings of two acres of property with a home to Community Housing Sonoma County (CHSC), to be used for Permanent Supportive Housing.  Once developed, the property could provide up to six stable homes with services for disabled homeless people, either families or groups of individuals.  See the article below from the Fall 2011 Reporter for details.  The Task Force is deeply grateful to Luther Burbank Savings for this great opportunity, as well as to CHSC for taking on this project.  We continue to work with owners and lenders to identify and secure additional property for permanent and Permanent Supportive Homes.


In a milestone for Sonoma County, and a model to communities across our nation, Luther Burbank Savings, a homegrown bank that clearly cares about its communities, has collaborated with the Task Force for the Homeless to donate a 2-acre property in Santa Rosa including a house. The recipient is Community Housing Sonoma County (CHSC), an active nonprofit developer of Permanent Supportive Housing.  This is the first time a bank has donated a foreclosed property to house homeless people, here or perhaps anywhere. Plans must still be developed, but the property could eventually house up to 24 disabled homeless people, with services provided by a nonprofit partner to support their ongoing stability.  Initially, the existing house will be rehabilitated and also used as Permanent Supportive Housing. Planning to develop the remainder of the property should gear up in late 2012 or early 2013. This landmark donation will dramatically transform the lives of people whose disabilities often make them vulnerable on the street.

A key barrier to meeting new federal performance goals that require shelter residents to exit to permanent housing is the lack of truly affordable homes. With a 30-40% increase in local homelessness in the last two years, emergency shelters are overflowing and pantry programs running out of food. At least 12,565 people – over 75% being local residents, are likely to experience homelessness in Sonoma County in 2011. Sonoma County is also seeing a glut of vacant foreclosed homes, blighting neighborhoods and driving down property values.

The Task Force decided to explore whether this housing resource could be connected with the extraordinary need through lender-donated or deeply discounted properties. We were fortunate to connect with Lena Robinson, Regional Manager of Community Development for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, who helped us convene a meeting in late June with banks, nonprofit developers and service providers. Jenny Helbraun Abramson, Continuum of Care Coordinator, presented data to clarify the need.   Afterwards, Luther Burbank Savings Senior Vice-President Carolyn Chapo approached Task Force Executive Officer Georgia Berland with this potential donation. Task Force acted as intermediary, keeping information confidential until the smooth completion of the transaction could be assured.

John Lowry of Burbank Housing Development Corporation and consultant Claude Kennedy assisted the Task Force to initially assess the property’s potential. Nancy Gornowicz and other Santa Rosa officials provided vital information. The Task Force then held a second meeting of nonprofit developers and service providers to determine the appropriate agency to receive and use the property for permanent housing for homeless people.  CHSC agreed to take on this substantial responsibility and follow it to fruition. Paula Cook, CHSC Executive Director, and Lisa Yoshida, Board President, moved quickly and efficiently, as did the bank, on the many steps required to complete the transaction. CHSC also began the process to acquire funds to rehabilitate the home on the site. The Luther Burbank Savings’ President and Board of Directors approved the donation and the property closed at the end of October.

The Task Force is deeply grateful to everyone involved in this historic gift –  most notably President John Biggs, Senior Vice President Carolyn Chapo, Jana Adams and Teena Nelson of Luther Burbank Savings, Executive Director Paula Cook, President Lisa Yoshida and the Board of CHSC, and CPS Realtor Randy Coffman.  The Task Force Board also showed initiative in supporting action on this opportunity.  A great deal of innovation, trust, courage, and hard labor went into making this remarkable donation happen.  Our hope is that this model will encourage other lenders to consider donations of vacant foreclosed property to help alleviate our housing and economic crises and to express their commitment and involvement in our community.