YMCA takes over safety-net services for county Human Services Agency 

click to enlarge San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine (left, wearing tie) attends a recent ceremony marking the Human Services Agency's contracting with YMCA for county safety net services. - COURTESY OF SAN MATEO COUNTY HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY
  • Courtesy of San Mateo County Human Services Agency
  • San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine (left, wearing tie) attends a recent ceremony marking the Human Services Agency's contracting with YMCA for county safety net services.

After the closure of a core service center that provided emergency safety-net services to Brisbane, South San Francisco and San Bruno, San Mateo County's Human Services Agency has contracted with the YMCA to continue offering the safety-net resources at the agency's South San Francisco office.

These services -- which can include emergency food, shelter and clothing, along with employment services, help with utility bills, short-term counseling and assistance with benefits forms -- had previously been provided by the North Peninsula Neighborhood Services Center, but that organization lost its city and county funding amid accusations that it was unable to meet its clients' needs and its financial reporting requirements.

HSA Communications Manager Effie Verducci said the county terminated its multiple contracts with the neighborhood center due to concerns that it might not be able to sustainably meet its contractual obligations. South San Francisco City Councilman Pradeep Gupta said the City Council had similar concerns, and described the center's financial reporting as "sloppy and incomplete."

Representatives for the former service center could not be reached for comment. The private nonprofit organization's phones appear to have been disconnected, its website is no longer online, and a recent visit to its Linden Avenue, South San Francisco facility revealed that the space is vacant.

For the last seven months, the HSA has temporarily used its South San Francisco office to provide safety-net services while it searched for a permanent replacement for the neighborhood center. In an effort to prevent any interruption of services, the City Council also awarded a grant to the Salvation Army, which collaborated with the city and HSA to carry on the work until a permanent oversight organization took over, Gupta noted.

The county contracts with eight nonprofits to operate core centers for various safety-net services around the Peninsula. Among them are Samaritan House in San Mateo, the Community Services Center in Daly City and the Pacifica Resource Center in Pacifica.

YMCA Commuity Resource Center Director Marie Ciepiela said YMCAs around the country are run as separate organizations, and those in the Bay Area are among the few that offer mental health services. The YMCA of San Francisco, which serves San Mateo County, gained that capability when it merged with the Youth Service Bureau about 20 years ago, and the Huntington Avenue location is already known to community members as a Youth Service Bureau office, she said.

The office served 25 families on its first day as a core service center, Ciepiela said. During the center's first days of operation, much of its work has been focused on assisting families in need of shelter, including those living in cars or staying in relatives' homes, she said.

Youth Service Bureau employee Danna Padilla noted the office has seen a constant stream of people in need of services. She added that the office's clients represent a cross-section of society, spanning all age ranges, and including both existing clients of the HSA as well as new clients.

Although some forms of state assistance have residency or citizenship requirements, Ciepiela said the Resource Center is there to help anybody in need, regardless of status, and all of its employees are bilingual.

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