There isn’t a population, cultural group or gender that’s immune from homelessness or impoverishment.
Linda Barrack, the president and CEO of Martha’s Kitchen and Village, sees this fact clearly and remains steadfast on a mission to make the Indio-based organization a vital instrument of change.
“I was in the private sector for some time and one day, it just dawned on me that there was a such a huge need,” Barrack says of the myriad homeless issues affecting Coachella Valley and Riverside County. “Sometimes bad situations happen to good people. So, who’s there to help solve the problem and get you back to where you needed to be? That’s what I appreciate about Martha’s Village and Kitchen. We help. We need to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, especially for the children. The community needs these people to come back into the community.”
The organization has become of the most significant if not largest providers of homeless and impoverished services in the area, serving more than 8,000 people annually. Launched in 1990—its founders began serving meals to their homeless neighbors—it now operates out of its main Indio campus with three satellite offices throughout the Valley.
Using a “continuum of care model” to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, the establishment extends countless opportunities for individuals in need, including food services, emergency housing, children’s services, healthcare services, cooling services, and much more.
The goal: for an individual to reclaim their life and become healthy, self-sufficient, and productive citizens.
Passing down new life skills to their children and families also filters into the mix.
“We’re diverse,” Barrack notes. “When we provide assistance, we’ll give you an answer to something but also support you through any process required to be successful. I think people are very taken back with how much we really have to offer when they’re given a tour here. A lot of people might think we feed people in need, but that’s just the beginning. It begins with breakfast and continues throughout the day with varied services.”
Recently, Martha’s Village and Kitchen received a grant from the 150 Circle of Giving Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The giving circle of members allows individuals to make a minimum gift of $150 annually to benefit nonprofit organizations in the Coachella Valley. The group funds arts and humanities, education, human services, public benefit, animal welfare, environment, and health.
To be sure, funding is a primary goal—and a challenge—for Martha’s Village and Kitchen. Grants, donations, and volunteers allow the organization to continue providing important services.
Barrack, who writes a variety of those grants, strives to locate funding streams that sync up with the organization’s needs and can create operable programs that have longevity.
“That can be a struggle,” she admits to the funding journey. “So is continuity. But once the funding is secured, we’re able to complete the process for the clients. Another challenge is finding the type of training contained within specific funding so that the organization’s staff continues to increase their expertise.”
Among the many things that stand out at Martha’s Village and Kitchen, communication with clients ranks high among them. Barrack says staff constantly talks one-on-one with clients to determine “how they feel and where they might see a gap in services—that’s extremely important.”
Success stories abound. One that stands out in Barrack’s mind revolves around a woman in her late fifties who’d been diagnosed and treated for cancer, then released from the hospital.
“We met her during our warm weather shelter program,” she shares. “The woman was out on the streets and once we got to know her, we discovered that she had cancer. It was pretty bad. We brought her into our Recuperative Care in Indio, which is set up with the RN and licensed practical nurse. It’s designed to offer medical treatment; a place where people have a space for that type of care.
“To be able to care for that woman—take her to and from appointments and all the peripheral appointments, besides just the cancer—and help her move into a state of better health… well, that is truly one of the most rewarding things we can do here.”