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Kids sleeping in boxes for homeless awareness

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Kids sleeping in boxes for homeless awareness

HOPE Family Ministries Executive Director Dave Thompson is in front of the Raymus House shelter where the Kids in the Box effort takes place Friday.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED May 16, 2013 1:55 a.m.

A handful of kids are going to get a chance to think out of the box when it comes to perceptions about the homeless.

They are part of a contingent that’ll spend this Friday night sleeping in large cardboard boxes they decorate on the grounds of the Raymus House on South Union Road. And while they will raise money for Raymus House as well as the HOPE Family Shelter, the biggest impact won’t be on the coffers of the non-profit group but on the kids themselves.

“It changes their perception of the homeless,” noted HOPE Family Ministries Executive Director Dave Thompson. “They come away realizing that the homeless are really no different than them.”

The participants mingle -– as well as share a meal – with the homeless mothers and children at the shelter as part of the event. In past years, participants have been surprised to find out they have schoolmates who are staying at the shelter.

Thompson said the event was started to raise awareness of how prevalent the homeless problem is and the fact a ragged person pushing a shopping cart down the street isn’t reflective of the greatest need. Instead there are people who alternate between couches for a few nights in the homes or garages of acquaintances,  motel rooms, and sleeping in vehicles or at places such as Caswell State Park.

Manteca Unified has more the  700 youth classified as homeless. While they may not be sleeping on the street per se, they have no permanent homes. In many cases such families can only spend several days with others who open their doors due to rental agreement issues or the fact they overtax the hosting family.

The three shelters that cater exclusively to families and mothers with children have an annual operating budget of $150,000 that volunteers struggle each year to raise.

At one time government grants accounted for $92,000 of the annual cost of running the shelters. The federal and state funds have dropped to less than $35,000. The rest comes from donations as well as continuing support from a nucleus of churches in the Manteca community.

“The community has really stepped up,” Thompson said.

HOPE has almost a 75 percent success rate. That means that three-quarters of the people they have helped since opening 21 years ago – or about 3,000 of the 4,000 that includes children – have ended up being able to stay in rental housing.

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