We want to take a moment to express sympathy and solidarity with the people impacted by what is being called the Wine Country Wildfires of 2017. Helping those in housing, economic, and emotional crisis is what BOSS has done for 46 years. We also operated two crisis support centers following natural disasters in Alameda County, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1991 Oakland firestorm, and we want to share some of what we have learned.
Loss of Home and Belongings
- There are wonderful individuals and companies out there who are doing their part to offer special housing deals for people, and their pets, impacted by the fires.
- California 211 is a great resource for all services, including emergency and evacuation shelter information. You can call 2-1-1 from any phone, or go to their website for information.
- Marin, Napa, and Sonoma counties also have listings of emergency and evacuee shelters in their areas, there are some which even allow pets and have mental health services available.
- Community Action Partnership Sonoma County is offering Disaster Relief Housing Services (DRHS) to evacuees and people who have lost their homes.
- The California State Office of Emergency Services has opened several Local Assistance
Centers in Lake, Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma counties. LACs are a kind of one-stop-shop for accessing many government agencies and services such as the Federal EmergencyManagement Agency (FEMA), California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), California Employment Development Department (EDD), the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), Veteran’s Affairs (VA), and many others.
- West County Community Services is offering housing, employment, mental health, financial, and other services to the community.
- A listing of local, state, and federal service assistance is listed on the Sonoma County website.
Loss of Employment and Income
How you can help:
We all want to help, and for many of us that means going through our pantries and closets looking for items that can be donated. This is not always the best use of resources in an emergency situation. In-Kind donations (item donations such as clothing, food, etc.) can create a whole host of additional issues, the most pressing is that these items take up a tremendous amount of space – space that emergency shelters are reluctant to sacrifice if it means housing fewer people. In these solutions cash donations are usually best, but there are places always looking for in-kind donations:
How to Give Cash:
Only give directly to reputable organizations. Many of us are tempted to donate to a charity if they are soliciting outside of your local grocer. Scammers use this ploy often. An individual might make up a charity, or talk about one whose name is very similar to one you know of already, or an individual might misrepresent themselves as being from a reputable charity. Always contact the organization directly to make a donation. The Federal Trade Commission has information on spotting and reporting suspect nonprofits.
Organize your faith institution, civic club, school, or other group to collect and distribute needed items. Talk to victims and see what they need that maybe others haven’t thought of yet.
Who to Give To:
- American Red Cross
- Center for Volunteering and Nonprofit Leadership
- Community Foundation of Mendocino County
- Community Foundation of Sonoma County
- Go Fund Me Fire Relief Campaigns
- Heart of the Vine Relief Fund
- Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch
- Napa Valley Community Foundation
- Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund
- North Bay Fire Recovery Fund
- North Coast Opportunities
- Northern California Fire Fund (Northern California Grantmakers)
- Northern California Fire Fund (Silicon Valley Community Foundation)
- Redwood Credit Union Community Fund
- The Salvation Army
- Sonoma Valley Fire Support
- Sonoma County Resilience Fund
- Sonoma Humane Society NorCal Fire Relief Fund
- Tipping Point Emergency Relief Fund
- United Way Bay Area
- United Way of the Wine Country
- Wine Country Relief Fund
- Undocufund is raising funds for undocumented immigrants who live and work in Sonoma County. Unlike victims of the fire with citizenship, they do not qualify for FEMA assistance, so Undocufund will provide them with much-needed assistance in terms of temporary housing, home repairs, storage expenses, and even funds for funeral and burial expense.
Rebuilding After the Fires and Amid a Housing Shortage
Before the wildfires, housing in the North San Francisco Bay Area was already in short supply. Now, after thousands of
residents have lost their homes, the region faces some tough questions about where the displaced will live and how to rebuild. Santa Rosa novelist Stefan Kiesbye, who escaped the fire with his wife and two dogs, is one of those who lost most of his possessions and is contemplating the memories of a bygone life.
So many people are banding together to help individuals impacted by this tragedy. We are proud of our strong Bay Area communities, their resilience, and their commitment to each other. Let’s keep the spirit, pride, and support going. Let’s work to get everyone housed, get everyone employed, and get everyone as whole as possible in the wake of such tragedy and loss.