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Homeless shelters hit hard by growing state budget woes

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POSTED December 19, 2008 12:17 a.m.
Dave Thompson knows that his organization is facing a tough financial future.
With California’s looming budget deficit, the three facilities that Thompson oversees in Manteca that assist homeless families are expecting to lose all of the Emergency Housing Assistance Program it would typically receive in 2009.
And with the economic downturn and housing bust leaving more families than ever looking for assistance, Thompson says that the three shelters — all operated by the Manteca-based HOPE Ministries — will likely have to ask for even more of the community in order to not cut services.
“We’ve been getting anywhere between 20 and 30 phone calls every day asking about whether we have any vacancies,” said Thompson – noting that each of the units at both the Raymus House and the HOPE Family Shelter are currently full. “The need now is bigger than ever before, and how to cover those costs is something that we’re definitely going to have to look into.”
What originally started as a family-based homeless shelter housed in what was Manteca’s first hospital has since grown to spawn not only the Raymus House on Union Road – open only to single mothers and their children – but also a transitional housing center on North Street to help low-income families find stability.
But not even that growth managed to keep up with the demand in the area for displaced families that have run out of options.
Before the State of California informed Thompson that the organization could no longer keep a waiting list to prioritize openings – going with a first-come, first-served system instead – it wasn’t uncommon for there to be more than 20 families at any given time.
The recent economic troubles that seem to have faced almost every industry haven’t helped with securing the necessary funding to keep the operation at the three individual sites going.
“One of the largest supporters were members of the building industry, and they’ve definitely been affected with what’s going on lately,” Thompson said. “And right now we’re about $30,000 below where we were in our budget a year ago.”
Community support, however, has almost always been one of the staples that have helped the organization provide the much-needed services to the less fortunate in the community.
Soroptimist International of Manteca will be providing Christmas presents for all of the children receiving the services that the HOPE shelters provides, and a handful of other community organizations and businesses have also made pledges to ensure that the holidays are something that even homeless children can enjoy.
An East Union High student is currently organizing a toy-drive for their senior project to lend a helping hand.
And recently crowned Manteca Idol Christine Acosta waited less than a week after winning the charity talent competition to organize a concert that will also serve as a sheet and blanket drive for Manteca’s shelters – something Thompson says there is always a need for.
“Everybody is always thinking about food and other items that they can donate, but simple household items like sheets and blankets and towels – and even toilet paper – are really what we’re in short supply of,” he said. “We’re really pleased that she (Acosta) came to us to help out.”
Unlike other neighboring communities, which have shelters that cater exclusively to single men, each of the HOPE facilities places a special emphasis on taking care of the displaced children that don’t have a choice in being homeless.
Professional child counselors currently visit each of the sites to work with the children and help them adjust to circumstances that are often different than what they’re used to – and help them overcome what might have been a traumatic road that led them there in the first place.
While Thompson has been well versed in how to deal with shrinking government funding in recent years, the possibility of having to eliminate or scale back the programs that help the children is what bothers him the most.
“In all of the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve never had somebody come up to me and say that they wanted to be homeless,” he said. “And when you think about the children and what they’re going through, you want to do everything you can to make it easier on them.
“Hopefully that’s a situation that we’re not going to have to face.”
The offices of the HOPE Family Shelters are located at The Raymus House at 520 S. Union Road. For more information about making donations, or to find out how to help, call 824-0658.

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