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Kids in the Box event set for Sept. 15

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A participant in a previous Kids in the Box event peers out from a cardboard appliance box she fashioned into a house.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED September 9, 2017 12:43 a.m.

A few years back, a Manteca fourth grader participating in the HOPE Family Shelter’s annual Kids in a Box awareness event and fundraiser was startled when she met one of the homeless children staying at the organization’s Raymus House at the time. It was a classmate.
Manteca Unified at an given time has between 600 and 700 students classified legally under federal law as homeless. That means they are bouncing around from home  to home, may be living in a motel temporarily, staying with their family in the garage of a friend or relative, living in vehicle or — in some instances — actually on the streets in tents.
“Kids in a Box is an event to help young people be aware of homeless in the community,” noted HOPE Family Shelter Executive Director Cecily Ballungay.
She noted it’s not just single adults that people see on the streets, but often single moms and intact families.
“Research shows (financially) that most Americans are just two to three paychecks from being homeless,” Ballungay said.
This year’s event is planned for Friday, Sept. 15, at Calvary Community Church on Lathrop Road between Union Road and Main Street. It was moved from the grounds of Raymus Home in a bid to expand it beyond those youth that are participating in the overnight portion of the event. The public is invited to drop by during that roughly four hour portion of the event.
From 5 p.m. to sundown the church grounds will have a BBQ, bounce houses, cakewalk, petting zoo, raffle prizes, music, face painting and more. Those attending during those hours will also be able to see the cardboard shelter that kids staying overnight have fashioned. The participants can be fairly creative with how they decorate their boxes that they will seek shelter in overnight.
After sundown, the Kids in Box participants and the chaperones will see a movie projected on the all of the church before turning in for the might. The event ends at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Those who want to participate in the overnight portion of the event need to collect $50 in pledges and secure shelter — cardboard boxes — that they can decorate. They will receive a T-shirt in addition to a BBQ meal, hot chocolate in the evening, and a continental breakfast.
Individuals or groups are welcome to participate. To register call HOPE Family Shelters at 209.665.7640 or 209.824.0658.
Ballungay noted families with young children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in America.
The non-profit HOPE Family Shelters served over 70 homeless families last year including 293 individuals of which 213 were children. They operate three shelters including the Raymus House on Union Road, transitional housing near Doctors Hospital and the original shelter on West Yosemite Avenue.
Last year — thanks to Project HOPE that was implemented in 2014 — 52 percent of all families that leave the shelters end up securing permanent housing. That compares to 39 percent in 2015 and 9 percent in 2014. Typically, homeless shelters have less than a 10 percent success rate at making sure families once they leave end up in permanent housing.
Project HOPE is a mentoring program aimed to get at the root of the problem as to why families lose their housing whether it is money management, other financial issues, legal concerns, or behavior problems. Once identified, the Project HOPE staff works with clients to address the issues.
The non-profit has a $260,000 operating budget of which 20 percent comes from government sources. The balance is derived from private sector grants and donations.
The Manteca Ministerial Association 24 years ago launched the faith-based HOPE Ministries.

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