Burt Polson

Burt Polson

Substance abuse and homelessness are part of our community in the Napa Valley, and The Salvation Army of Napa Valley’s Culinary Training Academy was established to make a difference in the lives of those needing a second chance.

Lack of affordable housing in Napa is a dilemma not easily solved. Losing a job or experiencing tough times that take away your earning potential is a reality that touches us all.

The academy is a program that gives someone who has struggled with homelessness and substance abuse the independence, self-sufficiency, confidence and dignity to pursue a professional job in local hospitality industries.

“Our third class is starting this week with 10 students signed up to date, but there is a need to provide housing for the students,” said Executive Chef Paul Fields.

“Many students live in the homeless shelter in south Napa, which is some distance from our location,” said Fields.

The academy does offer a handful of beds in a small house owned next door while other students live during the four-month program at Serenity Homes of Napa Valley. Other assistance programs may have a room available, but many students make due and find temporary living arrangements.

“Housing cost is about 30 percent of the of the program,” says Rick Osgood, advisory board member. “The academy, through donations, covers all costs for the student, but we are short on housing,” says Osgood.

Lack of housing is about to change this Thursday, Jan. 18 at 5:30 p.m., when the housing task force asks for approval from the planning commission for the addition of a manufactured home on an unused area of the Salvation Army’s Napa headquarters.

The commitment of the community to provide housing to the students during their training is evident in the many who have committed $135,000 in last year’s Hands Across the Valley for the purchase of the house.

Several dignitaries are committed to the program’s success as well as businesses like James Jefferies Architects and Dale James Construction, both volunteering their services to see the project through.

To be considered for the academy, an applicant must have six months sobriety, have gone through a sobriety program and be tested before starting.

In 2016, the academy was launched with the first two sessions in 2017. From the inaugural class of eight students, five continue to work in the restaurant industry in the Napa Valley.

The second class had eight students, seven are working today, and one is continuing her education in the culinary field.

You will find several students currently working at The Meritage Resort and Spa, Silverado Country Club, Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley and the Archer Hotel Napa.

I am excited to have recently been voted onto the advisory board of the Napa Salvation Army corp.

The organization, in my mind, has always been a place offering a meal, groceries, clothing, a bed, a hug and a prayer.

Now I can help and be a part of the impact the Salvation Army is making in the lives of people in our community.

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Burt M. Polson, CCIM, is an active commercial real estate broker. Reach him at 707-254-8000, or burt@acresinfo.com. Sign up for his email newsletter at BurtPolson.com.