HOPE for the Homeless

Name: Michelle Simmer

Current Status: Alumni

Graduation Year: 1999

As the homeless population in Solano County (Northern California) continues to rise, alumna Michelle Simmer’s (MA ’99) heart for this underserved population rises to help them. Michelle recently became the Director of Services at Community Action North Bay (CAN-B) but she is no newcomer to the social services sector.

After graduating with a degree from HIU’s Marriage Family Child Counseling (MFCC) Program, Michelle served as a Foster Family Agency Social Worker at ChildNet Youth and Family Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping vulnerable children and families. She was soon promoted to Clinician and worked at ChildNet for the next 17 years. During those years, Simmer provided individual/group therapy to at-risk children and their families. She also collaborated with the clients’ foster parents/biological parents and teachers to ensure a safe environment for the kids. In 2010, Michelle became a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and continued to mentor colleagues new to the agency.

In late July, 2017, Michelle’s life made a dramatic change. She gave notice at her job, and moved to Rio Vista, CA to be near her elderly mother. After a brief job search, Michelle is now “second-in-command” at CAN-B as Director of Services where she serves veterans, the physically and mentally disabled, seniors, and other vulnerable persons living in Solano County who are socially and economically at risk. Simmer’s change of focus from foster children to homeless veterans was an indirect result of her move to Northern California, but it has long been on her heart to be a part of a group committed to ending homelessness and poverty.

Simmer supervises case managers and other staff, facilitates mental health by promoting a clinical milieu with the clients and staff, and writes grants. As an advocate for veterans, Michelle directly helps them secure their Social Security benefits and VA compensation.

“On my path to becoming a licensed clinician, HIU taught me how to really listen to my clients as I diagnose and develop treatment plans, building a strong client-therapist relationship that is so vital,” Michelle says. “I do this with each and every person I serve.

“I also learned to work as a team member and developed leadership skills in study groups, group projects, the classroom and clinical groups,” Simmer says of her graduate work at HIU. “Those experiences carried into my career and continue to help me daily.”