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2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Committee on the Shelterless

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Child Day Care, Children & Youth, Homeless & Housing, Homeless Centers, Homeless Shelters, Human Services, Scouting

Mission: COTS offers help and hope to homeless persons in Sonoma County by providing safe shelter and housing, helping people develop steady incomes and helping them get back under a roof of their own. We also help homeless families become stable and break the cycle of homelessness by teaching homeless parents to make their children''s needs a high priority and to provide a safe, loving and secure home for their children.

Results: We’ve helped over 15,000 homeless people and have saved hundreds of lives. Many of our program participants have gone on to have fabulous lives!

Direct beneficiaries per year: 2000

Geographic areas served: Northern California

Programs: Center for Homeless Children and their Families: a 35-bed year round emergency shelter for families with children, which provides shelter, food, and intensive assessment /case management services from resource advising staff for up to 60 days.Children's Haven: Located at the Center for Homeless Children and their Families, the Children's Haven program offers licensed day care and other comprehensive services to sheltered children and their parents, including parenting training, counseling and assessment.Church/Synagogue Emergency Shelter Program: Coordinated by COTS staff, up to 20 congregations provide companionship, food and up to 12 additional sleeping spaces to homeless families during the school year.Mary Isaak Center: Year round emergency shelter and transitional housing for homeless adults. 100 emergency shelter beds, 30+ transitional housing beds, clinic, case management, work program offered. Provides showers, laundry, message center, telephone, mail and locker services. In addition, counselors and resource advisors provide assistance with employment referrals, training in personal hygiene, housing referrals, counseling, assistance with substance abuse issues, and referrals for health care.Shared and Transitional housing for previously homeless families and singles using 12 residences in Petaluma and Rohnert Park. Provides safe, affordable housing in a mutually supportive, service enriched living environment.The Family Connection provides after shelter support for formerly homeless families.The Petaluma Kitchen provides hot meals every day to needy community members.

Community Stories

17 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 1

I know a lot of people think that C.O.T.S. is a Great nonprofit. I, admit, that they project themselves quite well as one. The truth, however is a lot different than the rosy picture about themselves that they present. One thing that is true is that C.O.T.S. will do anything ethical or not to preserve their funding, their reputation within the community as well as the North Bay Area at anyone's expense. Take for example a gentlemen who was a two time graduate of the program (One of a very few at that time.). He believed in C.O.T.S. and helped them. What did they do to him? They sicked the police on him eventually suing him for $50,000 and tried to break him. Is this what great nonprofits do or are supposed to be about?

Please realize that C.O.T.S. intentions were good at first, however they become quite misguided as they only help the people that they want to help. Anyone who gets in their way they will destroy in a heartbeat. To me, this is not what Great nonprofits do.

Don't take my word for any of this. There are records available at the Courthouse in Santa Rosa regarding C.O.T.S.'s activities. Thank you.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was introduced to Committee On The Shelterless (COTS) by a neighbor when we first moved to Petaluma. My relationship with COTS began simply by me dropping off donations. I then inquired about the food service program, because I could see they had a kitchen on site that was serving meals to the local residents. I offered to volunteer at the kitchen one day a week. I loved the experinece so much, I kept going. It's been over two years now. And I still love it just as if it was my first week volunteering. The Petaluma Kitchen staff make everyone feel welcomed. When I was laid off, I found the volunteering rewarding and it helped me get out of the house and be part of my community. I felt needed and respected.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a non-profit that does NOT use the "patch-it up" approach, this organization works to solve the very issues that lead an individual or family to seek help to ensure that one can stand back on their own two feet, with self-confidence and hope. As their intro video says, everyone falls on their knees sometimes. I volunteered with COTS as a family team member, were I was matched with a family and other volunteers to support their growth and help them to reach their goals. I immediately repeated the experience because of the positive impact possible I saw in my first year as a volunteer!

Meg E.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is nothing short of amazing. The staff is very competent across the board. Very caring and also demanding of clients as needed to get them back on their feet. They have innovative "treatments" like Tai Chi, and many programs (Rent right, for one) to help people get on their feet, working, and in suitable affordable housing. John Records is a driving loving force for good. He's brought many Petaluma citizen volunteers on board and donors on board to support COTS financially. I attribute the wonderful Mary Isaac Center's development to John's efforts in the community. Of course, many people contributed. Some formerly homeless people are now on staff making a huge difference in people lives. It's one of the many things that Petaluma can be very proud of.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer for COTS in several capacities over the last 6 years. I stick around because it is always apparent to me that COTS is a well-run and effective organization. My time is put to good use and I always feel appreciated. There are many ways to help and it allows me to take action to help people rather than just write a check, though I am happy doing that too.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is a wonderful organization that assists the needed with a whole approach rather than piece meal. John Records is an outstanding role model and has such emphathy for all participants.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered at the COTS preschool program beginning in Feb. 2006. I admired the dedication of the teacher's and staff. They provided a caring, nurturing, secure and a valuable teaching experience for children from toddlers to grade school. The children flourished in this environment. It was wonderful to see the joy of learning, sharing and character building the children responded to. Both parents and children were fortunate to have been a part of these programs.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is a remarkable organization that I have had the privilege of volunteering for a couple times. I would highly recommend anyone to choose COTS volunteering as a way to give back to the community, and to see an amazing integrated set of services in action. COTS is working to help homeless individuals and families recreate a life filled with hope and possibility. They provide physical shelter, resources, trainings, services and other innovative services (including mindfullness, trauma therapy, life skills) but what's incredibly unique is the human heartfulness that exudes from the organization. It is how they meet each person with full dignity that makes as much difference as all the services they provide.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is the most effective non-profit agency that I have had the opportunity to witness. Through all of its work in supporting individuals who need a "hand up", COTS communicates a respect and unflagging optimism for the capacity of humans. I am grateful that COTS offers not just a bed and meal (though both crucial assets) to those in need, it also uses research-based tools to educate and renew/build positive skills and habits in the areas of parenting, money management, and finding and maintaining a good place to live. The leadership at COTS is visionary and has worked together with staff to create a comprehensive program that has been exported in many different settings. I can't say enough positive about the work of COTS.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is one of the most well run organizations I have ever been involved in. It is truly successful in every aspect of their mission and is a model for other similar organizations.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first met John Records when I was interested in bringing Yoga Nidra meditation classes to COTS at the Mary Isaac Center. John's life story and generous soul guided my decision to teach a 6 week program there. What a surprise and delight to meet and get to know a dedicated group of eager and curious people in the program at Mary Isaac Center. I found that it was a reciprocal teaching; I learned from week to week more about my students, their struggles and courage, as they learned the benefits of yoga practice. I continued to teach yoga movement classes long after the 6 weeks, and cried when I had to make the decision to leave that program. Thank you John Records for your work and generosity, and to all the participants in my classes who touched my heart and soul.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS has become an integral part of the local community by providing programs that enable homeless people to confront the issues that caused their homelessness and work to enable them to rejoin mainstream society. A special focus is given to children to ensure that they do not suffer from the homeless experience and end up homeless themselves. A particularly impressive aspect of the way that COTS works is that it uses large numbers of community volunteers in many different ways, thereby increasing the bond between the community and the organization, and demonstrating to the clients that the community is supportive. It's 'tough love' policies (zero drug and alcohol tolerance, for example) have demonstrated some amazing results in relatively short time horizons. I'm proud to be able to be a part of this organization.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've spent some time around COTS and interacted with clients and staff. It's amazing how this organization not only provides "relief" to those in desperate need, but actually enables its homeless clients to build independent lives with dignity and comfort. There are so many elements to this labor of love--from resume building and job skills training to family counseling to education to spiritual support--not to mention the free meals and beds. And ultimately, the clients have to contribute too, which they do with warmth and enthusiasm, making COTS a culture of kindness.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is perhaps the most caring, most demanding and most effective non profit in the region - if not the nation. Mr Records, the wise leader, has built a cadre of thinkers, workers and innovators who have been able to adjust and adapt to an ever changing economy, funding cycles and red tape. COTS stands out in a community of other effective non-profits that serve the community - due in part to a clear mission and purpose that were present from the very beginning. The "hand up, not a hand out" credo is a message that works with families and individuals who are without permanent housing."COTS helped me get back on my feet again.." is a comment I hear from former clients. The credo also works well with funders who are often suspicious of similar efforts in other places.

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My association with COTS began in 1990 when I began delivering food to needy families in the Petaluma area. I have since volunteered in other capacities and have grown to regard COTS as an amazing organization that has saved hundreds of lives and improved the lives of thousands more. They do this with a small but dedicated staff that rallies hundreds of volunteers to serve the needs of homeless and needy people throughout Petaluma and southern Sonoma County.

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

COTS is a spectacular, inspiring place where miracles happen. People's lives are transformed. I have been a volunteer at COTS for the past several years and helped my colleagues establish a somatic trauma clinic there. The executive director, staff, and residents have received us most warmly and with deep gratitude. It's a blessing to be connected to COTS.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love volunteering at the Mary Isaac Center. Everyone is very nice and they make me feel so appreciated while at the same time I am doing the same for them - by showing care and giving attention. This is a top notch organization. The rules are strict for one reason only - to help people get through this difficult time in their lives and get them back on their feet. With all the people I have come to know here, it is clearly visible that support and camaraderie exists amongst everyone. John Records tireless hours in building this valuable shelter into one of the finest in the country is something I will never forget in my lifetime.