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Marriage opens door for better life
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Standing at the front gate of Hope Family Shelter on East Yosemite Avenue newlyweds Pearl and Marcelino Ureste are about to see their new temporary 500 square foot home for them and their children. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

A homeless family that includes three children is no longer living in a tent thanks to a decision to marry.
Marcelino and Pearl Ureste had been living for the past six months in an eight-person tent in the backyard of their grandmother’s house on Louise Avenue with their three children ages 10, 11, 17 that attend Manteca schools.
By marrying on Saturday they were able to meet one of the criteria of securing an apartment at the HOPE Family Shelter on Yosemite at Sequoia avenues — couples staying there with their children have to be married.
It was pretty much a “quick fix” for a homeless couple who had been living in the back yard of grandmother’s home on Louise Avenue in an 8-person tent for six months who were married on Saturday and placed in the Hope Family shelter on Monday.
Pastor Jim Benedict of Calvary Community Church married them Saturday.  By Monday they were in their new temporary home and able to access the non-profit’s services that assist with improving budgeting skills, and providing other services over a two to three month period that allows  families to stand on their own two feet financially.  Many parents of families that are accepted into the shelter are already working but either lack the deposit and the first month’s rent for an apartment or else can’t find someone that will rent to them.
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.
The Raymus House Outreach team had been in contact with the couple but they had to be married to be accepted into the Hope Family Shelter facility.
Raymus House’s Michelle Whitaker took care of all the necessary paper work to see their successful placement in a clean apartment – complete with Wi-Fi but no television.  Whitaker explained that they don’t want residents sitting around and watching TV in a bid to stay focused on improving their lives and their life skills.  They each have to put in a minimum of 15 hours a week working at the Raymus House on Union Road, Whitaker added.
She asked the couple for Christmas wish list for each of them and for their children.  The churches will work together to complete the list with presents appearing under their Christmas tree.  A second list is to be give to the Raymus House team to use in further filling their Christmas stockings.
The couple found a set of dishes and cooking utensils in the cupboards along with food stuffs that had been left by the former occupants.  A wooden dinner table included six chairs in the kitchen, a trundle bed and a bunk bed for the boys in a separate room with an outside grassy play area for children living in the various apartments. 
 “This is what our Outreach is all about – getting people into a safer place,” Whitaker said before departing to deal with another homeless family crisis on Monday.
The outreach team also works to help people from becoming homeless.
 The non-profit HOPE Family Shelters has 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.
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 of which 20 percent comes from government sources. The balance is derived from private sector grants and donations.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email