Suzanne Shenfil began her career with Fremont in 1978. She has a Master's Degree in Social Welfare Administration from the University of California at Berkeley, and was named Alumni of the Year in 2004. In 2010, her name was added in the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame, an award given to outstanding women for achievements and contributions to the well-being of Alameda County citizens. Ms. Shenfil currently manages a department of more than 70 employees with an operating budget of $20 million, including the City's Community Development Block Grant Program (CDGB) and over a half a million dollars in public service grants to local human service nonprofits. The department utilizes over 150 community volunteers and university interns contributing over 30,000 hours annually to the delivery of social services.
The primary focus of the department is to work to support a vibrant community through the creation and maintenance of services that empower individuals, strengthen families, encourage self-sufficiency, enhance neighborhoods, and foster a high quality of life for all residents. For each general fund dollar the City invests in Human Services, the department provides a 300% return on the City's investment.
Under Suzanne's direction the department has been recognized for its innovation and its ability to build community partnerships:
In 1999, the department completed the development of a $12 million, 55,000 square foot Family Resource Center,(FRC) which co-locates 25 State, County, City, and nonprofit agencies. The FRC is a welcoming place where families and individuals are nurtured, encouraged and provided quality services to build on their own strengths to help themselves and others. Agencies at the FRC work in an integrated way to help those with complex needs. The FRC has enriched the lives of countless individuals and families throughout its 20-year history.
In 2004, Fremont's Human Services Department, in conjunction with the Tri-City Elder Coalition, was one of eight sites from a field of 487 national competitors to be awarded a prestigious Community Partnership for Older Adults grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Through an extensive community dialogue process in nine languages, a senior action plan, "Pathways for Positive Aging", was developed and implemented to improve the community long-term care system for older adults and their families.
Fremont’s current Age Friendly initiative has been able to build on this solid foundation.
Committed to using the skills of older adults, the Community Ambassador Program was launched in 2008. It has trained hundreds of community volunteers from the Tri-Cities’ cultural and faith- based communities, and other affinity groups, about issues that confront older adults and community resources to assist them. Ambassadors help seniors in their own languages and in places where seniors feel most comfortable congregating and receiving support. The program received the Grantmakers in Aging, Diversity Award in 2018 and the National League of Cities 1st place Cultural Diversity award in 2014.
The Department’s Caregiver Support Program, and Senior Peer Counseling have been recognized by the Alameda County Mental Health Association; the Senior Peer Counseling was recognized by the International City Manager’s Association.
Suzanne serves on the EveryOne Home Leadership Board working to end homelessness in Alameda County. Over the last 6 years city services for Fremont’s growing homeless population have expanded including a Winter Shelter operating from Nov 15-March15, the development of a Mobile Hygiene unit with showers and laundry serving the homeless at rotating geographic locations and most recently the development of a new Housing Navigation Center, which will open in Spring of 2020. A Crisis Intervention Specialist working in the department is shared with the Police Department serving those in the community with mental illness, many of whom are homeless.
Suzanne is currently spearheading the development of Fremont’s new state of the art Senior Center, in the southern part of the City and her team his nurturing the development of the Greater Niles Village, a community of neighbors who share their skills and support to navigate the challenges and opportunities of aging. This is the first of what the department hopes will be many Villages to Suzanne is a strong believer in bottom up planning and program development which embraces the diverse views and input of those needing and receiving services in the community.