Delivering Dignity to 
San Mateo County's Homeless
by: Bill Somerville, Founder

The struggle of a homeless person extends far beyond the constant search for warm shelter and a hot meal - it includes cleanliness too. Homeless individuals often lack access to showers and washing machines, which can be detrimental both socially and mentally. The simplicity of a shower and washing machine is something many take for granted, but for those without them it can be a source of stress and embarrassment.
Project WeHOPE, an East Palo Alto-based nonprofit helping homeless and at-risk individuals rebuild their lives, is aiming to address this issue for San Mateo County's homeless by providing access to showers, toilets, washers, and dryers - all via a mobile truck.

PVF Executive Director, James Higa, with Project WeHOPE clients in the locker room, where homeless individuals can safely store their belongs. Photo credit: Craig Sherod

Called Dignity on Wheels, this mobile unit is the first of its kind in San Mateo County. After years of planning and fundraising, the custom unit is now in operation and comprises a shower, toilet, washbasin, washer, and dryer. The trailer will also be staffed with a volunteer nurse or caseworker to provide medical assistance, counseling, and referrals.
Plans are for the facility to serve as wide an area as possible in the community given that homelessness continues to be an ongoing issue in San Mateo County. In East Palo Alto alone, close to 50 people need a bed each night at Project WeHOPE.

From left to right: PVF's Founder, Bill Somerville, and Project WeHOPE's Founder, Pastor Paul Bains

The unit's reach is impressive - a single mobile unit will provide showers for 360 people per week and will allow for 216 loads of laundry per week. For the people behind these numbers, this translates into empowerment.
Philanthropic Ventures Foundation was one of the first funders of this initiative. We are known for going out into the community to find and fund outstanding leaders. In this case, Pastor Paul Bains, founder of Project WeHOPE, displayed the leadership qualities we look for when seeking out projects that have the potential to have an impact.

Pastor Paul Bains, founder of Project WeHOPE. Photo credit: Craig Sherod

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation stands ready to help with some of the ongoing operational costs of this effort, which helps deliver dignity to San Mateo County's homeless. 
Bay Area Inspire Awards: New Extended Deadline!

Application deadline: 10/30/15

Through the Bay Area Inspire Awards, we are providing grants of up to $10,000 to be used for an innovative community-oriented project for a maximum of one year. Those eligible are young people between 18-30, who are living and working in either Alameda, San Francisco, or San Mateo Counties. 

About PVF
PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.
About the Editors

James Higa, Executive Director 

James Higa brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley, working with Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many products and services at Apple over 3 decades. He has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts.
Bill Somerville, Founder

Bill Somerville has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991 founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation where he serves as President. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations, on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker.