Nonprofit Petaluma Committee on Homelessness Hires New CEO

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Committee on the Shelterless, a Petaluma nonprofit that helps community members experiencing homelessness find and maintain housing, will have a new CEO effective January 1, 2023.

Chris Cabral, who worked for nearly eight years in Sonoma County nonprofits, will succeed CEO Chuck Fernandez, who had held the role since 2018 and announced his retirement earlier this year.

Cabral, 32, grew up in Gambier, a small town in Ohio. Her parents have always been interested and engaged in their community, she said. Her father volunteered and built housing for homeless people in their neighborhood.

She moved to Sonoma County nine years ago when she was stationed with the US Coast Guard at Two Rock, west of Petaluma.

“As soon as I arrived in Sonoma County, it was love at first sight,” Cabral said. “I was like, what is this magical place?”

She joined the Coast Guard when she was 22 years old.

“You are really trained, no doubt, to support the people around you,” Cabral said of the military.

Nonprofit work seemed like the natural next step after her Coast Guard stint ended, she said.

Cabral got a job in Petaluma as the director of human resources at PEP Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing developer in North Bay.

In 2017, she began working at her current nonprofit, Nation’s Finest, which provides housing, counseling and other services to veterans and their families. Cabral started there as administrative director and remained in that role for two years before being promoted to chief operating officer. As COO, she oversees the day-to-day functions of the business, as well as the corporate culture. The organization doubled in size during his tenure.

From 2014 to 2020, she attended Golden Gate University in San Francisco, first earning her bachelor’s degree in accounting and business management and then a law degree. She completed the college law program by taking night classes while working at Nation’s Finest.

“I fell in love with it very quickly. Working in the nonprofit sector, especially the housing sector, was an immediate connection,” Cabral said.

She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in accounting at the Dominican University, to formalize her understanding of an organization’s finances. She also currently sits on the boards of Legal Aid of Marin and Trips for Kids Marin, in addition to being a senior non-profit management consultant to River’s Edge Consulting Groups.

Cabral said she was excited to start on the Committee on Homelessness and planned to maintain and increase the progress already underway.

During his four years as CEO, Fernandez oversaw the partnership between Committee on the Shelterless and the City of Petaluma to create People’s Village, a project that provided temporary housing for homeless people who may be reluctant to community shelters. . Fernandez also helped establish the organization as a regional leader in homeless services and oversaw professional development initiatives for employees.

“Chuck is not only an incredible leader at COTS, but he’s also an incredible team member,” Cabral said. “I wouldn’t want to step in and make a big change right away.”

This year, Committee on the Shelterless was named one of the best places to work in Sonoma County by the North Bay Business Journal. And the nonprofit’s July employee engagement survey received an “overwhelming satisfaction score from our team members” for the third year in a row, according to Fernandez.

Cabral wants to continue this success.

“Always support the staff doing the work – I strongly believe in prioritizing the feelings and morale of the staff,” Cabral said.

As for the organization’s primary focus, ending homelessness in Sonoma County will be an ongoing challenge, she said.

According to data from the Petaluma Health Center, approximately 750 households in Petaluma had someone homeless at some point in 2021, and there are currently approximately 300 people in the city who are considered homeless.

Contact reporter Rebecca Wolff at [email protected]

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