After two years of fear and desperation, living in a car and cold weather shelters with her twin daughters, Home First client Darlisha Matthews can hardly believe her good luck.
“I don’t feel like it’s real yet. It’s shocking,” said Matthews, who just this past March moved her nine-year-old twins into a transitional living apartment operated by Home First. “I’m blessed. I asked for help when I didn’t know where to go. I think God led me to HomeFirst.”
Matthews and her daughters were honored guests April 24 at Home Sweet Home, a fundraiser for HomeFirst, the largest provider of homeless services in Santa Clara County. The afternoon benefit, held in the gardens of Santa Clara’s Triton Museum of Art, raised more than $87,000 for homeless programs through ticket sales, silent and live auctions, and donations.
“Friends, this is what you do with your generous donations,” said HomeFirst CEO Andrea Urton. “You help us give people a safe home, a place where they can stop worrying about daily survival and begin to think about having a future.”
HomeFirst’s policy is to house people first, then provide them with the social services they need to stabilize their lives and get on their feet financially. Its programs benefitted more than four thousand of Santa Clara County’s 6,500 homeless individuals in 2015, including many veterans.
Urton explained that the number one reason for homelessness is job loss. The number two reason is the high expense of housing in the Bay Area, where the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $2,350.
“We wanted to bring this fundraiser home to the heart of our community. This location is centrally located in Silicon Valley, [where] housing subsidies and places to use them are really hard to come by,” said Urton.
Some 200 Home Sweet Home attendees enjoyed fine wines, craft beer, appetizers and sweets, all donated by local providers.
Many individuals contributed services, including benefit emcee Sam Van Zandt of 94.5 KBAY radio. Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman was auctioneer. Phil’n The Blanks, the El Camino Youth Symphony Topaz Trio, and the Suzanne St. John Crane & David Crane Blues Duo provided music. Strolling magician Phil Ackerly added his own special magic. Jose Uribe of StudioFour Photography took photos.
Urton expressed appreciation to everyone, including “our board of directors, who are our biggest volunteers, and our other most amazing volunteers.”
“Volunteering with HomeFirst is a good fit. I’m all about putting roofs over people’s heads,” said Morgan Hill real estate agent Stephen Theard, who helped the food and beverage vendors set up. “Whatever I can do to help people get off the street, I try to do it, to give back.”
“I feel very passionate about the homeless situation,” said new board member Marguerite Padovani. “It is going to take more than a village to solve the problem.”
Visit www.homefirstscc.org for information about HomeFirst and to read the compelling story of how Matthews and her daughters were rescued from the streets.
“Now, even when I’m home, I still feel like I have to get up and leave. When you’re out there so long, you feel like you have to go back to your car,” said Matthews. “We are so grateful to HomeFirst for helping us.”