Genevieve Jennifer Ferraez
"Working with the homeless never felt like a choice to me. My grandfather taught me through his actions which flowed with a deep penetrating love that all human beings were our brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. I learned as a child that we are all struggling through this life together–most of us doing the best we can. It is our responsibility to care for those who cannot find the strength or resources until they are able to carry themselves again. My grandfather passed away when I was nine, but his prayers have remained with me. In 2002, I began working with Father Jon- Stephan, serving at the Monday night homeless outreach dinner.
In 2004, I was working as a clinical social worker for Santa Barbara County Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Services when I was "put out on the streets" myself. My supervisor, seeing the need for mental health outreach services, approached me knowing I already attended the homeless outreach dinner in Isla Vista. This was the year my "private" and "public" worlds came together. I left the cozy clinic to spend my time in the shelters, streets, and bushes. It some ways it gave me more energy, living less of a "compartmentalized" life.
I found an amazing small group of individuals who work with various agencies (Public Health, Social Services, Project Recovery, Restorative Police Team, and St. Brigid's Fellowship) as well as some volunteer advocates with a passion for this very challenging population. Together, with our various perspectives and unique strengths we have been able to find creative solutions to some of the most difficult circumstances surrounding this population.
In 2006, I began volunteering as the social worker for Doctors Without Walls (DWW). Headed by Dr. Mimi Doohan we conduct "street rounds" (rather than hospital rounds) after dark on the streets of Santa Barbara. Our team is able to provide both medical and mental health services to the most isolated of individuals (who are often the sickest) that do not access shelters for various reasons. I chose to keep this role voluntary, apart from my County position, to have a place to speak in certain meetings as a "homeless advocate" without the concern of speaking as a government employee.
A good friend of mine, Dr. Jim Withers, once said "we find ourselves in this work". It is so true this work has a way of laying us bare–exposing our weaknesses–whether it is baring the sour stench of someone who does not remember the last time they bathed or baring the stench of my own putrid judgements that arise through those I encounter."
- Mother of three grown children
- Member of SAOC since 1978.
- Lived in Isla Vista since 1977.
- B.A. U.C. Irvine in Social Ecology
- Employed 17 years at Devereux Santa Barbara; 10 years at Santa Barbara Middle School as Development Director; now employed by SAOC. I work with St Brigid, St John of Damascus Academy and Fr. Nicholas. I am learning to be a cantor and sing in the choir. When I'm not working I'm reading, writing and playing with my menagerie at home.