Hunger and homelessness continue to be serious issues for many community members in Yolo County. A recent survey of data from 2017 to 2019 discovered Yolo County had 20.9% of its residents living in poverty – the highest rate in California according to a Yolo County 2022 press release; see Yolo County Basic Income Program Encourages Growth and Self-Determination for Vulnerable Families, March 25, 2022, yolocounty.org.
Empower Yolo has been a beacon of hope for our neighbors struggling with food and housing insecurity. Empower Yolo’s housing department and food distribution centers have been continually supporting clients, their children, and other vulnerable community members experiencing food and housing insecurity throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Housing support: “The housing department team continues to work hard to house our victims of abuse and homeless clients,” says Lorena Palomar, housing director, Empower Yolo. Access to information and resources is important to providing effective services for clients. “The housing department has created walk-in hours for clients at Woodland, Davis, and West Sacramento every week to be able to reach our unhoused community that has no way to contact us. Housing advocates are available to speak with clients and answer any housing questions,” says Palomar.
New issues have arisen for clients experiencing housing insecurity. In June the state rental support program “Housing is Key” closed. Since then, the housing department has seen an increase in clients who were not approved and now owe larger sums of past-due rent. “We have met with clients and referred them to Legal Services of Northern California to collaborate and assist when possible,” said Palomar.
Rising utility costs have also been a burden for clients. “We have seen an increase in people seeking assistance with utilities as they have experienced an increase in the cost of their monthly utility bills that they struggle to meet,” said Palomar. Empower Yolo staff can assist with PG&E Relief for Energy Assistance Through Community Help (REACH) services, or North Coast Energy Services Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) depending on the client’s need.
Empower Yolo’s housing services have been effective and successful for clients. In 2021 548 clients were provided rental assistance and housing support. Year to date Empower Yolo’s housing team has housed 122 households with 198 household members; and assisted 10 households with homeless prevention, allowing 26 household members to remain housed.
Working with agency partnerships is also important in the process and success of housing clients. “We continue to collaborate with Yolo County Housing Authority, community partner agencies (Fourth and Hope, Davis Community Meals, Hope Cooperative, Yolo County Children’s Alliance, Rise Inc., and Yolo County Health and Human Services), property management companies, and landlords. Housing advocates meet with clients to create a housing plan on a case-by-case basis to best meet their specific housing needs,” says Palomar.
Currently, the housing team is helping clients move into Tiny Homes. The Tiny Homes project is an extension of the grant that was approved for the new homeless shelter at Fourth and Hope. 61 Tiny Home units were built at the 1801 Beamer Street location in Woodland to provide housing to the unhoused community. Fourth and Hope completed the application process and Empower Yolo’s housing team has assisted clients with financial support for the move-in costs. “We have currently assisted 25 of the approved clients with financial support to move into the new units. We have collaborated with case managers at Fourth and Hope, Yolo County Children’s Alliance, Hope Cooperative, and Yolo County Health and Human Services to set meetings with their clients to process them for move-in which is exciting for clients,” says Palomar.
The community can help support our unhoused clients by donating rooms-to-go to help clients with move-ins. Gift cards and gas cards are also always a huge help to our clients.
“Looking forward, the housing department’s goals for the new year are to continue to assist as many clients as possible with a housing plan and continue to collaborate with our community agencies on wrap-around housing services to ensure our clients obtain and retain housing,” says Palomar.
Food Distribution: In 2020 the food insecurity rate in Yolo County was 10.6%, 23,210 people (overall, all ages) were experiencing food insecurity, see map.feedingamerica.org. Food insecurity means having limited, uncertain, or inconsistent access to the quality and quantity of food that is necessary to live a healthy life. Having sustained access to enough food is tied to positive social, physical, and mental health outcomes, see nourishca.org/GeneralNutrition/CFPAPublications/FoodInsecurity-Factsheet-2019.pdf.
To help prevent food insecurity for clients, vulnerable families, and harder to reach populations, Empower Yolo continues to provide weekly food distribution in partnership with the Yolo Food Bank’s Eat Well Yolo program in Davis, Knights Landing, and the town of Yolo. “Our partnership with the Yolo Food Bank allows us to reach communities that might otherwise not have access to these resources,” says William Irlmeier, facilities manager, Empower Yolo.
Empower Yolo food distribution staff report that food distribution numbers are higher now since the height of the pandemic. In 2021 the Davis Resource Center provided food for 2,689 duplicated households. Knights Landing Resource Center and Yolo together provided food for about 10,400 duplicated households.
If you or a community member are experiencing food insecurity please come to one of Empower Yolo’s food distribution sites: Davis Resource Center – 441 D Street, Davis; (530) 757-1261; 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. Knights Landing Resource Center – 9586 Mill Street, Knights Landing; (530) 668-0690; every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Town of Yolo – 37817 Sacramento Street, Yolo; (530) 668-0690; every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. All sites provide food while supplies last.
When available food distribution boxes are also offered to clients without requirements. The boxes vary each time with seasonal vegetables, canned goods, pasta, dry beans, rice, milk, and meat. The goal of Eat Well Yolo is to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Every week is different, sometimes people receive food boxes, and other times they receive frozen meat, milk, or other dairy products. It varies based on what the Food Bank has available.
In addition, Empower Yolo provides a basic food pantry at the main office in Woodland. The office pantry is not meant to provide groceries; it’s for people who just need a meal or two. Pantry items vary each week, but it often has fruit, vegetables, cereal, pasta, or soup. We ask people to only take what they need. Friday food bags donated by Woodland Third Thursday Humanitarian are also available at the main office pantry. These bags have no-cook meals for the homeless who ask for them.
“We are able to help families stretch their budgets at a time where everything seems to cost more,” says Irlmeier. All of Empower Yolo’s food resources are on a first-come, first-serve basis; the food is given away until it runs out.
Empower Yolo strives to support community members that are harder-to-reach or underserved. “People in Yolo are really appreciative and when they come in for food, it gives us the opportunity to tell them about other resources,” says Irlmeier.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week: Empower Yolo will host a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week November 12-20 to raise awareness for the problems of hunger and homelessness through educational, service, fundraising, and advocacy events. For more information about our awareness week events, and how you can help support those experiencing food and housing insecurity visit: empoweryolo.org. Join Empower Yolo as it continues to be a beacon of hope for the unhoused community and our hungry neighbors.