By Christopher Oak Reinier

Pat Jones has had the kind of experience necessary to manage the WCCS Emergency Shelter for the homeless in Guerneville.

She has been doing outreach work for homeless veterans for twenty years. Over time, she has made it her mission to help area veterans who were hurt during service and need the financial help that is available for our injured vets. They often don’t know what is available for them and generally don’t know how to find it. “It’s my forte’ ” she says. Many of the veterans suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress don’t even have the energy to help themselves.

Pat has been very active in Sonoma County Vet Connect (SCVC), a veterans’ service group which is funded by kind donations and fundraisers. Her husband, Richard Jones, is the President of SCVC.  Pat has played a major role in creating the SCVC and “Vet Connect Day” in Santa Rosa. Every Tuesday at the Santa Rosa Veterans Building some forty Federal, State, County, and NGO agencies set up together and make their services available and accessible to Sonoma County veterans.

For the past two years, Pat has also been managing “Clean Day” at the Veterans’ Building in Guerneville. It is a program initiated by SCVC which has recently been turned over to local agencies and volunteers to coordinate. The weekly service offers showers and clean clothes for homeless vets in the lower river area.

This year Pat is managing the WCCS Emergency Shelter for the homeless in the west county, where many of the homeless are disabled vets. The shelter is open December through March. Pat’s crew of eight part-time staff members has housed 147 different individuals already this winter for at least one night.  Averaging 35 individuals each night, the shelter has hosted as many as 60 on some of the very wet and cold nights.

Many of the people WCCS provides shelter for receive some disability support, which often does not pay enough for them to afford housing in Sonoma County. But Sonoma County is their home. With funding from the County and the help of many volunteers, Pat is glad she can help provide emergency and life-sustaining food and a bed for these seriously at-risk people during the hardest time of the year.