Center closing its doors, leaving residents nowhere to go

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Before the boxes were completely packed, a sense of fear and anxiety started to fall on Janet Kentala, who sat on the brink of being evicted from her apartment after three years.

On any other day, she would be smoking a cigarette and chatting with her neighbors, all situated in a collection of apartments. Friday morning, as some folks sat on their cement stoops, Kentala was pacing through an obstacle course created in her apartment by numerous boxes and unmatching furniture.

'Theyre going to have homeless people with mental issues back on the streets, like me,' said Kentala, who receives $319 a month from the countys general assistance program, of which $200 is for rent. 'A lot of us have been working on issues about being homeless and now were being thrown back out there.

'They just dropped the bomb on us.'

Kentala and 47 others are clients of the Alliance Community Center, which helps mentally ill and emotionally disturbed individuals through various programs, including housing provided through the center.

Alliance is a contract agency with the Solano County Department of Mental Health, which is funded by the state through Assembly Bill AB 2034 and provides

$55 million for integrated services for homeless adults with serious mental illnesses.

That changed June 8 when the center received a letter from the county saying its contract would end June 30, displacing nine employees at Alliance and dozens of clients.

Deserine Graze, program manager for Alliance, said the decision was a backlash from the bill, which was not included in Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggers 2007-08 budget.

'The government targeted to cut these programs and they cant continue funding them,' Graze said. 'We had to give up our master leases with these apartments, and the county is not willing to continue with these master leases.'

As a result, people such as Kentala will be forced out. For some, they will stay with friends or families temporarily. For most, Kentala said, they will be homeless again.

Kentala said she and other clients in the complex were given two weeks to vacate their apartments. They were to be out by noon Friday.

Her daughters boyfriend, Gareth Long, drove from Napa with a rented U-Haul to take her belongings.

'This is completely wrong,' Long said. 'These programs are to help get them on track and help revert them. They are out of their minds to do this with such short notice.'

However, shortly before noon, three women from the Department of Solano County came by to speak with Kentala and other clients.

Although they did not want the Daily Republic to hear their conversation with the clients, one Solano County employee, Kathy Blair, was heard saying, 'You dont have to leave today. I have a plan in my back pocket.'

'Somethings not right. They have us on an emotional roller coaster,' Kentala said. 'Kathy was telling us not to stress when just earlier this week they were telling us to get out. They should have told us before. Theyre trying to do this feel good then Bam! Theyre going to take this away.'

Patrick Duterte, director for Solano County Health and Social Services, said he does not know why Blair approached the clients before noon and was unaware of the conversation.

In reference to the clients given a two-week notice, he said he could not disclose confidential information but did say that 'some times theres more to the story than what appears.'

'This county is dedicated to serving people and giving appropriate notice to its clients,' Duterte said.

As of Friday afternoon, the clients who were previously evicted will now have until July 31 to vacate their apartments.

'There will be an orderly transition for these people, and we have the staff to do it,' Duterte said.

'We made a commitment and were going to work with them individually and get them in the right programs.'