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A year-old Martinez-based homeless services outreach partnership is evolving into official nonprofit status, with the newly minted Homeless Action Coalition set to become a hub for connecting the area’s homeless population with the staples and services they need.

The Homeless Action Coalition, formally incorporating a few months ago as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community benefit organization, has already built an internal infrastructure with a board of directors, a Faith Community Advisory Committee and fundraising capability. An outgrowth of the Martinez Homelessness Task Force, the new coalition has so far raised almost $30,000 from individual donors, faith organizations and labor groups.

Noralea Gipner, the coalition’s president and CEO, said she hopes incorporation will better enable her group TO achieve the goal of providing housing for Martinez’s homeless residents.

“Our coalition is going to ensure all of Martinez’s unhoused residents can land on their feet and transition into housing,” said Gipner, a Martinez city councilwoman who has been involved with the Homelessness Task Force since its inception.

Over the past year, the Martinez Homelessness Task Force has worked with community groups to operate a homeless service center each Friday morning at the Martinez Waterfront Park, just north of the Amtrak station. There, Concord’s Bay Church and other faith partners have operated mobile showers and provided laundry service, toiletries and food for homeless people in the area.

Contra Costa Health Services has provided a free mobile clinic there; the Martinez Police Department and Contra Costa County C.O.R.E. homeless outreach teams have connected those people with shelters and other public resources, and community volunteers have offered haircuts and organized a clothing exchange program. That service has been dormant, however, since the COVID-19 outbreak, Gipner said, but will eventually resume.

“Our coalition is going to ensure all of Martinez’s unhoused residents can land on their feet and transition into housing.”

Noralea Gipner, Homeless Action Coalition

Before the coronavirus pandemic began in earnest in March in the Bay Area, 30 to 40 people took advantage of these services every week, Gipner said.

There are an estimated 150 homeless persons in and around Martinez, living everywhere from highway underpasses and creek banks to near rail tunnels and the Martinez waterfront.

In response to the pandemic, the Homeless Action Coalition has already deployed four sanitation stations throughout Martinez, and has organized essential services for the city’s waterfront encampment, a sizable homeless community that has become established at the John Muir Amphitheater near the Martinez Marina.

The coalition is providing food, clothing, tents and other supplies to residents who agree to abide by county health rules and self-govern the area to ensure resident safety.

In the future, the Homeless Action Coalition will serve as a hub for coordinating homeless resources, strategy and funding within Martinez and its adjacent communities, said Jonathan Bash, chairman of the coalition’s board of directors.

“As a 501(c)(3), we can now apply for public and private grants and accept tax-deductible donations,” Bash said. “Additionally, as a nonprofit, we can build a strong record of results that will further attract investments from those interested in developing new strategies to fight homelessness and increase access to housing.

“Logistically, every organization has its limitations; churches can do some things, governments can do other things, but a nonprofit is able to bridge those gaps,” Bash said.