Dave Thompson was well aware of Manteca’s homeless 20 years ago.
Working as a graveyard patrol supervisor for the Manteca Police he saw homeless children and their parents sleeping in cars, in alleys and under park trees.
What he didn’t know about 20 years ago was HOPE Family Ministries organized by the Manteca Ministerial Association to provide shelter for homeless families.
HOPE Ministries turns 20 this year. The non-profit organization was born in the middle of the recession that followed the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the winding down of the aerospace industry, and massive closures of military bases in California. HOPE Ministries now struggles in the midst of the Great Recession to meet a need that has increased proportionately with Manteca’s record post World War II unemployment rate of 15 percent.
Since the doors of their first shelter opened in 1992 HOPE Shelters have assisted more than 2,000 families get back on their feet.
It has been able to do so thanks to the Manteca community that Thompson, who serves as the shelter’s executive director, calls “the most caring” he’s ever lived in.
“We have some people that have adopted families and send us monthly contributions that have been laid off,” Thompson said. “They’ve opted to keep helping even though the amounts are smaller.”
By the same token, the HOPE Shelter receives an anonymous money order every morning or so for $50 to $60 from Washington state.
It comes each time with a simple note saying it is from someone that was helped by the shelter and wants to show their appreciation.
The shelter’s success rate – people who basically end up being able to provide their own shelter – is just above 60 percent. It is a high rate among shelters. Thompson, who retired from the Manteca police force nine years ago, credits to counseling servings that are provided.
The counseling services address everything from money management to life choices. Unfortunately, budget considerations may force an elimination of those counseling services in the coming months.
The demand for the three shelters the organization operates has never been higher.
“In four hours just this morning I filled two apartments and took four calls from other people that needed help but we couldn’t accommodate them,” Thompson said Wednesday.
The original shelter opened 18 years ago has eight units for homeless families. Located at Sequoia and Yosemite Avenues in what originally was the city’s first hospital built following the great Flu Epidemic of 1918 doesn’t stick out as a shelter.
“You can go a half a block away and people who have moved in the area don’t even know it is a homeless shelter,” Thompson said. “They think it is just an apartment building with a high turnover.”
A lot of that has to do with HOPE Shelter’s zero tolerance policy toward drugs as well as their stringent requirements that tenants follow a stringent program in the two months they have to get back on their feet financially.
Twenty-five percent of the homeless passing through HOPE Shelters are employed. Some financial event – including foreclosures on rental properties in the current climate – puts them out on the street. They can afford rent but not the deposit.
Others are helped to get back on their feet with assistance in getting a job. Due to the success HOPE has had with helping homeless families get their finances in order, a number of apartment complexes in Manteca have a working relationship with the non-profit and have no problem taking renters who’ve been at HOPE shelter.
To make it work, the shelter tries to provide as much as the basics they can from food and everyday items such as toilet paper and personal hygiene products. They rely heavily on individuals to donate such items.
HOPE Ministries also operates the nine-unit Raymus House on Union Road for single moms and their children as well as seven transitional units where families can stay for two years as they rebuild their lives.
Two families have already moved out of the transitional shelter months ahead of the two-year limit.
Staff and service cutbacks have allowed the shelter to get by with a $160,000 budget - $40,000 less than last year’s amount. HOPE no longer receives state money and is having their federal assistance pared back $26,000 to $22,000.
The majority of the families helped over the year are from Manteca with almost all the rest coming from the South County although there have been some out-of-state families that were helped.
For more information or to help with donations of money or items, call 824-0658.