Vanguard Award Honorable Mention — Protecting the Most Vulnerable

November 14, 2023

We are syndicating the original article by Paul Rothman from It is also available in the November digital edition of Security Business magazine.

Catholic Charities’ Caritas Center keeps its residents safe with the help of a security management and access control system

Through Catholic Charities’ housing-focused service model, the Caritas Center’s 48,000 square feet in Santa Rosa, Calif., includes a family shelter, childcare center, drop-in center, and recuperation shelter, as well as a new health clinic partnership with Santa Rosa Community Health.

“The safety needs for this community are extremely complex,” explains Jennielynn Holmes, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa. “We are serving one of the most vulnerable populations in our community: Individuals who are experiencing homelessness, families escaping domestic violence, and individuals who have just been assaulted. We have a real need to make sure that the individuals who are living here are safe, that our staff are safe, as well as our surrounding community and neighborhoods.”

To accomplish such an important task, Catholic Charities turned to the access control technology of Identiv and the integration expertise of Blakeslee Electric to ensure a safe but welcoming environment at Caritas Center – earning the project recognition as an honorable mention in the 2023 Security Vanguard Awards from SecurityInfoWatch, Security Business, and Security Technology Executive (STE) magazine.

A Vulnerable Population

Holmes says Catholic Charities is focused on “making sure that the most forgotten, the most marginalized, and the most invisible in our community have a place of belonging and have a place to be seen.”

That place is Caritas Center, a state-of-the-art innovative facility named for Caritas, a Latin word meaning charity.

“We really feel confident that we can provide a very safe environment, and we can assure families escaping domestic violence or individuals coming in who need a safe place to be that they are safe here,” Holmes says. “That wouldn't be able to happen without Identiv and all the work they did to plan and help us install and implement these safety and security features.”

Adds Allan Kelly, Senior Manager of Operations for Catholic Charities: “When I think of the Catholic Charities community, I think of the residents, the families, the unhoused. The security here is giving these individuals and these groups a peace of mind that when they step on site to this village – to their home – they feel safe, secure, and just comfortable.”

Inside the System

Raul Hernandez, Telecom Manager for Blakeslee Electric Inc., oversaw the integration of the project.

“Given that Caritas Village serves a vulnerable community, it was crucial to build a security system that is sensitive to the unique needs and concerns of a population of people experiencing homelessness,” Hernandez says. “What set this project apart was the nature of the facility itself, intended to act like a home environment. This required a dual approach – ensuring a welcoming, non-intrusive environment while maintaining a high level of security to protect both the residents and the staff.”

Caritas Center staff required different levels of access depending on their roles, ranging from general access for maintenance workers to more restricted access for medical staff. They also needed to monitor existing AV Costar video surveillance cameras.

Blakeslee Electric worked closely with Identiv to integrate access control and video surveillance systems into this unique environment. A range of Identiv products was chosen for the project, including its Velocity Vision Security and Video Management Systems, readers and credentials, as well as their associated mobile apps. The apps were used on iPads, enabling staff to have a more interactive experience while at the same time monitoring security.

“It is [helpful] when I can have a portable tablet with me and I'm not having to go to multiple sites,” Kelly explains. “We had an event recently where I had to access something in real-time, walk to the manager in their office, and show them on the tablet what just happened. They were able to respond to it immediately. The solution makes me look a lot smarter.”

“The solution that we provided here at the Caritas Center was really a full end-to-end solution – not only did we supply the Hirsch Velocity access control software, the back-end server, as well as the panels, the readers and the credentials, we also supplied their video surveillance platform, Velocity Vision, with the back-end server and storage,” explains Identiv Regional Sales Manager Jeanie James.

“We were able to truly design the full physical security solution hand-in-hand with Blakeslee Electric and the end-user, create the bill of materials, and then deliver all of the technology in a timely manner,” James continues. “The end-result is that we've been able to deliver a modern and unified platform to keep both the residents and the staff safe.”

Also important was security around the facility. Given that Caritas Center is a multi-functional environment with varying needs, Blakeslee Electric was tasked with designing a scalable system. Security measures were not only implemented within the building but also in surrounding areas like parking lots and outdoor spaces to ensure full-scale protection.

Hernandez adds that Identiv’s end-user certification was crucial. “We found that allowing the end-user to get certified on the platforms significantly improved post-deployment operations. The training helped to streamline the setup and enabled the end-users to troubleshoot minor issues themselves, reducing the need for ongoing maintenance.”

That said, Hernandez adds that they have set up regular post-deployment check-ins with the Caritas Center team to make sure everything is running smoothly and to handle any updates or tweaks to the system.

“We chose Identiv for its ability to handle the complexity of the project,” Holmes says. “We have five or six significant programs built into this building, and the system gives us up-to-date, real-time information about what's going on in the facility. Given how large the facility is, as well as how many individuals access it every single day, we really needed a company who could look at different levels of access, give us real time feedback, allow us to access different parts of this facility and even off site when we have emergencies.”