Our Story

Moving Families Out of Homelessness and Into Independence

What started as an Emergency Shelter for victims of domestic violence in 1983 has led to a permanent solution for more than 6,500.


Pajaro Valley Shelter Services assists homeless women, children, and families to obtain stable housing through temporary shelter and services.


Pajaro Valley Shelter Services aspires to be a national model program that helps women, children, and families end the causes and cycles of homelessness – one family at a time. By lifting their dignity, identifying their barriers, and helping them set their goals, homeless families will develop the skills and attitudes necessary to move on to stable housing and improved personal and economic self-sufficiency.

(“I Want to Be Were the People Are,” PVSS’ Children’s Table Artwork at the 2017 National Night Out Celebration at 115 Brennan Street, Watsonville)


We are an authentic and unique organization.

We believe that we are making a difference, and we are committed to families, to the community, to our mission, and to one another. We are rooted in and committed to the community of Watsonville and have deep respect for diversity of belief.

We serve and meet universal human needs.

We are passionate about our core purpose to end homelessness and are flexible in working with the families we serve. We are efficient in delivering our services, give tender loving care, and provide tough love to move people forward. We give people the needed time to calm down, to learn, to survive, and to change by providing a hand up – not a hand out. We enjoy stability with regard to our staff, our endowment, and our vision.

We utilize effective strategies to fulfill our life-affirming purpose.

We implement successful programs, services, and systems to provide emergency and transitional aid. Families are able to attain stability as a result of our services and the educational programs we provide. Our program provides structure, emotional stability, budgeting skills, savings opportunities, and tools to live a healthy life. Our clients build self-esteem, find hope, and increase their power to change their lives.

We organizationally support our purpose and direction.

We have an excellent model and tradition of leadership that we desire for PVSS that includes a well-connected community presence, an articulated vision, inspired leadership, and active participation. Our Board has diversity of age, industry, and perspectives, and members are supportive of the vision, demonstrate a passion for the work, support the staff, and collaborate as a team. We also have a strong and active Advisory Board. Our staff is passionate about their work and exhibit low turnover. We support our staff with training opportunities, educational workshops, and flexibility.

We align and connect our resources with our identity and purpose.

We have a strong, long-term, and faithful donor base. We take advantage of opportunities as they arise to raise money and apply for grants. Our funding sources are diverse and include reserves, an endowment, and real estate assets that are effectively managed. We support and maintain our essential assets through investment in a structured maintenance program.

We reach out to others in ways that support our direction, increase our energy, and celebrate our uniqueness.

We have a clear description of our program services from in-take to exit. We are proud of our accomplishments and celebrate our successes. We have created a great working environment and have an attractive and informative newsletter and website.


34 Years Ago...









February 7, 1984

Dear Friends,


Newsweek magazine gave 10 pages to a detailed description of homelessness in America in the January 2nd issue. There were plenty of stories and some telling statistics. We read it and identified with the struggles of the poor that we experience daily here at the shelter. The hard fact is that each of us can also “feel” the limits of compassion. There is something in us that doesn’t want to hear any more stories of poverty, hunger and suffering. We know clearly our own limitations and inability to reach out to all. When that happens only our network with other people who care can save us from becoming cold and unfeeling in the midst of suffering. We need to nurture the “good Samaritan” inside of ourselves and know there are others to support our efforts. This is our primary reason for sending you this newsletter. There are always needs in this house, but our most important link is to the network of “good Samaritans” who keep compassion alive through their support of the poor.


Sr. Marie Veronica Wagner and Sr. Susan Olson

Pajaro Valley Shelter Services was originally founded in 1983 by Sister Marie Veronica & Catholic Charities in response to the needs of homeless women and children in the Watsonville area. Since then, PVSS has helped the community’s  most vulnerable by building the skills and attitudes necessary to move on to stable housing and improved personal and economic self-sufficiency.

PVSS Co-Founder, Sister Susan Olsen, Board members, clients, and donors talk about PVSS in 2010.

“Pajaro Valley Shelter Services” from @codeninja onVimeo

Donate to PVSS

Your donation makes a big difference in the lives of families.