By Christopher Oak Reinier
A resident at one of the homes serviced by West County Community Services had cancer. She was not able to pay her medical and other expenses. Phillip Tapia, Supportive Services Case Manager, helped her find a non-profit that assists low-income individuals, helped her fill out the application for aide, submit it, obtain the funds, get treatment, find an ongoing support group, and carry on now with her cancer in remission.
Phillip is the man on the ground for WCCS Supportive Services, providing a wide range of assistance to residents of almost 100 living units in the West County. His services are needed on a regular basis by 40 to 60 residents of these units each month on a weekly basis. The units are made available to disabled, very low income, and chronically homeless people at Burbank Housing’s Fife Creek Commons Apartments and the Mill Street Supportive Housing unit in Guerneville, and at Petaluma Avenue Homes in Sebastopol.
Phillip’s work is primarily that of helping residents find the resources they need to manage their lives, showing them the way to services they would otherwise have difficulty finding. This can involve helping them find access to food, funds for an electrical bill, financial services, legal aide, counseling for emotional problems, employment services, and transportation services, and the kind of help he gave to the resident mentioned above.
He also coordinates programs, classes, and activities for all the residents, such as yoga or music classes for children, in the commons room of each large living unit, and he arranges for at least four dinners or parties a year in each of the units as a whole. One of the important functions of his service is to help residents find companionship and avoid isolation.
Busy as these services keep him, Phillip also provides essential out-reach assistance for the Homeless Shelter during the long wet months of the winter, specifically in trying to keep individuals involved with the Shelter despite behavioral or health issues. “To reach them they need to know I am genuinely concerned about basic human needs and want to help.” It’s peer work, working as one with them, through melt-downs and the difficult emotional reactions to the hardships that accompany homelessness. Phillip also coordinates services with West County Health Center to help individuals get the medical care many of them need.
I thanked him for taking time out of the work he does to talk to me about it, which, I have the impression, he doesn’t do much talking about. He just does it.