Safeguarding a stronger future for Victor Valley

Community Partnership Fund and High Desert Homeless Services - High Desert, California

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(From left, Brandon Romano, Margaret Hill and Patricia Nickols-Butler of Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County, and Christian Ponce, Sustainability Initiative coach, work on a planning session.)

Victor Valley sits in the High Desert region of Southern California’s Mojave Desert. Dramatic rock formations and rolling desert hills serve as its backdrop. Victor Valley has a population of nearly 400,000 people – about the same size as greater Oakland.

Unlike Oakland, residents of Victor Valley do not have easy access to a large urban center. It is a remote community about two hours east of Los Angeles. Nearly half of the residents in Victor Valley commute long hours each day for jobs outside of their hometowns.

Along with tough commutes, nearly half of high desert residents struggle to make ends meet. Forty percent of households in the valley live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That means a family of four is living on $50,000 a year, in one of the most expensive states in the country.

Local nonprofit organizations are responding to these challenges through subsidized housing, nutrition assistance, discounted health care, and substance abuse treatment. But they too struggle to make ends meet, relying on donations and grant funding to support these vital programs and services

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Patricia Nickols-Butler and Brandon Romano of Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County present to Victor Valley nonprofit leaders during a Sustainability Initiative session..

Since 2016, the St. Joseph Health Community Partnership Fund has supported the Sustainability Initiative, a program that administers grants to five high desert nonprofits to build capacity and help improve organizational management in an effort to secure their continued presence in the region.

High Desert Homeless Services, a Sustainability Initiative grantee, is the only nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive services to people experiencing homelessness in Victor Valley. It provides critical services to displaced families who have lost stable housing due to natural disasters or loss of income. In addition to housing, High Desert Homeless Services empower individuals to become self-sufficient through GED preparation, resume building, computer and financial literacy and job application assistance.

As an initiative grantee, High Desert Homeless Services and four fellow nonprofit grantees receive monthly training sessions tailored to the organizations’ needs. Sessions on succession planning and leadership development, risk management, program evaluation and strategic planning help ensure longevity of essential services to the community.

The training sessions have two goals: to produce a sustainability plan for each organization that will guide its growth and development for 12 to 18 months; and to facilitate introspection about organizational structure and culture that might restrict progress and efficiency.

After completing a few training sessions, one new nonprofit leader said the program’s strategic approach helped strengthen their organization’s leadership. “The initiative provided a mentoring program which pinpointed issues I needed to be aware of as a new executive director, and helped me build a relationship with my board that got us working as a unit.”

The St. Joseph Health Community Partnership Fund has provided $150,000 in funding and technical assistance for a five-month program, but the impact lasts much longer. As they build fundamental skills and knowledge about core operations and organizational capacity, these organizations are safeguarding a stronger future for the High Desert community.

Learn more about the Community Partnership Fund.

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