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$1.2M project upgrades eight shelter apartments
Work is under way on the renovation of the HOPE Family Shelter at Yosemite and Sequoia avenues. - photo by HIME ROMERO

It is tearing at Dave Thompson’s heart to turn away homeless families who are seeking shelter from the streets.

“We’d easily have a waiting list of 30 if we kept one,” said Thompson who has served as executive director for HOPE Ministries Family Shelters for the past 11 years. “The state made it illegal to keep waiting list years ago. Shelters have to be on a first come, first served basis.”

The original family shelter built in 1917 that once served as Manteca’s first hospital at Yosemite and Sequoia avenues won’t re-open until the end of September. That leaves HOPE Family Shelters with just the Raymus House on Union Road where 13 single moms and their children can stay at any one time for up to two months. They also have eight transitional homes for eight families that they can use for up to two years.

The Yosemite Avenue shelter is undergoing a $1.2 million renovation made possible with a Manteca redevelopment Agency loan. When completed it will have eight apartments for homeless families - one more than it did before work started. That’s because a small building is being added in the back for use as an office to free up an apartment that had been used for that purpose.

In additional, a home that HOPE is leasing next door for 10 years will be used either for additional transition housing or for a large group home for homeless families.

The shelter was in disrepair with structural issues and antiquated electrical wiring, plumbing, and was far from energy efficient. Part of the RDA loan was the requirement that the historical architectural be preserved making it one of the first buildings in Manteca to get such protection.

Thompson said that in mid-August an appeal wil be made to the community to help them furnishing the apartments. Much of the elder furniture was on its last legs and was disposed of as part of the renovation.

Families stay for a maximum of two months of free rent. Many of their basic needs are provided so they can save money to secure a place of their own. They are also taught how to manage their money. Many of the homeless are actually still working. Either one spouse has lost their job or had hours reduced. Their biggest obstacle to securing a home is coming up with the down payment to rent an apartment or a small house

HOPE has almost a 75 percent success rate. That means that three-quarters of the people they have helped since opening 19 years ago - or about 3,000 of the 4,000 that includes children - have ended up being able to stay in rental housing.

More than 60 percent of the $150,000 needed to run the shelters each year comes from the private sector with the rest through federal and state grants. Included in that private sector support are monthly contributions from 16 churches.

Thompson has noted many of the homeless families sleep on couches and floors in friends’ houses for a few days and move on before they get the tenant in trouble. Some sleep in garages while others stay in a motel for a few days and then go back out on the street to live out of vehicles until they get enough money to get a motel room. Still others will camp at nearby parks and even along te river.

Manteca Unified School District has indicated that 700 of its 23,000 students at any given time can be classified as homeless.

For more information call Thompson at 824-6058.