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Living Room Needs You

By P. Joseph Potocki

Linda Swan is program director for the Living Room, Sonoma County's only daytime drop-in center for homeless women and children. Like most North Bay charitable organizations, the Living Room is feeling today's economic pinch. Asked what has changed in the current climate, Swan cites not only increasing numbers of homeless due to foreclosures, job cuts and a tightening local rental market, but also more frequent visits by current clients, while resources continue to diminish. These accelerating problems are wrapped around myriad acute, chronic and even insoluble challenges homeless women and children face, even in the very best of times.

"Now we're seeing families whose rental properties were foreclosed upon." Swan says. "Twenty percent of our clients are living on the streets. Emergency shelters are full. And some women, particularly those suffering from mental illness, don't feel comfortable in shelters, even if they have available space."

One local business is lending the Living Room a helping hand. Ru Scott, owner of the Santa Rosa women's boutique Punch, together with her men's store, Shank, asks concerned community members to bring "unused umbrellas, packs of underwear and packs off socks in both women and children's sizes, as well as children's pajamas and slippers" to either of her two stores by Christmas Eve. Anyone donating to the Living Room gets a 10 percent store discount on that day's purchases.

The Living Room has served homeless women and children in Santa Rosa for 15 years. It currently provides everything from informal comforts, like a hot meal and a warm safe place to hang out, to caseworker services through its Pathways to Housing program, having relocated 73 women and children into homes over the past 17 months.

One-on-one and group discussions are also offered. Weekly group discussion topics include financial dealings, honing social and job search skills, as well as exploring ways to develop trust in establishing and maintaining safe, healthy and enduring relationships.

Linda Swan says the Living Room welcomes assistance from individuals and businesses like Ru Scott's, stressing that the Living Room is likewise in critical need of both direct in-kind as well as monetary donations to help see them through this holiday season.

To contribute directly to the Living Room, contact Arlene at 707.579.0142 or go to their website and click on "How can I help?" Donated items can be dropped off at Punch, 711 Fourth St., or Shank, 315 D St. Both stores are located in downtown Santa Rosa.

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