SAY has not been forthcoming with the problems it has at Tamayo Village or those that will be created by its Warrack Hospital solution. Only when their back is to the wall does SAY admit some of their operational problems. Bottom line: they aren't being honest.
If one looks at the concerns, it is not that many Bennett Valley residents don't want to help those in need; it is that this particular self-serving "solution" creates risk to more people than it serves. For example: police are called when there is a tear in the social contract. SAY's director of development, Cat Cvengros, told me she doesn't see anything unreasonable about Tamayo's 20 police calls a year for 25 beds. My frame of reference is zero calls on my block—many addresses, more people—in over 15 years (two blocks away from Warrack). So if 20 calls is OK for Tamayo Village, by extension SAY's tolerance is an additional 50 calls at the former Warrack Hospital campus. That means antisocial behaviors rise to the level of police involvement every week. Clearly, SAY's management doesn't have the same behavioral standards I do. They are choosing to run their business allowing that much antisocial activity.
If you look at SAY's financials (CharityNavigator.com) you will see their income was $3.2 million in 2002, $3.18 million in 2011, with average year-to-year growth over that period not keeping up with inflation. In order to cover their salaries and benefits of $2.3 million plus other professional fees of $1.5 million (according to 2010 form 990), SAY's plans for the Warrack "Dream Center" are about increasing their income by being a landlord and providing an outdated product that creates risk to the neighborhood. It costs money to reduce that risk. When I asked SAY's Ms. Cvengros why don't they have group homes which give residents solid abilities to succeed in society, instead of an apartment complex with little structure, she said, "Oh, we don't do that."
Why not? It is because they are unwilling to pay for the state-required higher percentage of licensed staff and it is more important to them to have rental income than to drug-test, by providing insufficient services to ADA-protected alcohol- and drug-addicted tenants (very difficult to evict). And it is my choice to not accept a lowering of the social contract.
If the city of Santa Rosa would require a socio-economic impact assessment (SEIA) to quantify the risks by using facts, I might be persuaded to think differently.
Cat Cvengros, SAY's director of development, responds: The unprecedented gift of an unused building will allow our community to provide affordable housing to youth who most need it, youth who are committed to being responsible tenants. We know the SAY Dream Center model will work, based on eight years of success at Tamayo Village, where 80 percent of our youth move into permanent housing.
Crime and safety are concerns for every member of a community, SAY included. It's not accurate to paint our eight years of success at Tamayo Village as "problematic." For perspective on the volume of police calls in the last three years: a nearby apartment complex had 88 calls, a nearby elementary school had 97, Tamayo Village had 62.
A phone call originating from Tamayo Village, or any SAY program site, will be assigned a SAY address, regardless of the location of the actual event. The act of placing a call for emergency help does not mean that a crime occurred. For example, two hit and run accidents took place near Tamayo Village, and ours is the address listed because it was nearest to the accident.
We are committed to transparency and have answered dozens of questions on our website. Find them at saysc.org.
Thank you so much for this timely article ("A Dream Interrupted," Nov. 20). Reflecting back on that day when I was a senior in high school and watched the tragedy on TV, I've come to understand the deep-seated fear that I've lived with as a result and the events that unfolded within the next five years. In April 1968, Martin Luther King was killed; in May 1968, my husband was killed in Vietnam when I was seven months pregnant, and one month later, in June 1968, Robert Kennedy was gunned down. A year later my father died suddenly. I could go on with many other losses. Suffice to say, I've found a way to release the fear that dominated my life for years. Writing helped. A book took many years to write, but it saved my life and has helped countless other survivors of war.
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