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Targets depression among homeless kids
HOPE award

HOPE Family Shelters staffers noted a disturbing trend in 2018.

More and more children that were part of the families they were helping were experiencing mental behavioral issues.

“There was an uptick of children displaying signs of cutting and signs of depression,” HOPE Ministries Chief Executive Officer Cecily Ballungay told those in attendance at the annual Night of Hope conducted Saturday at the River Mill in French Camp.

Given that 60 percent of the 240 people HOPE Ministries assists in its three shelters each year, the governing board of the non-profit established more than a quarter of a century ago by a coalition of Manteca churches pushed for the establishment of a program to help children they shelter who are struggling with depression and similar concerns.

The Children of HOPE was born.

When Kaiser Permanente got wind of what HOPE Ministries wanted to do and the degree of the need, they advised them the best way to run such a program was to have it in space especially designed for that purpose. Not only did they provide a $7,000 wellness grant but they arranged for a larger grant of $90,000 to help build a 1,500-square-foot facility for that purpose at the Raymus House compound for single moms and children on Union Road.

It has a $250,000 price tag to build and furnish. Ballungay told the gathering a local developer has committed to stepping up and building the structure that will substantially reduce the cost.

On Saturday she asked those attending the dinner if they were willing to pitch in as well.

Pitch in they did to the tune of more than $6,500 in pledges Saturday evening.

“No child deserves to be in unfortunate circumstances,” Margaret Ann Rey told those in attendance.

Ray was among those being feted for their commitment to helping homeless families get back on their feet. Rey is now a board member emeritus after serving as 20 years on the HOPE board.

Her service to those in need included volunteering through Haven of Peace that helps women and children through some of the darkest and most trying times of their lives.

She became involved with HOPE Ministries that has helped nearly 3,000 homeless people — most of who have been children — five years after a coalition of churches launched the outreach ministry at the urging of her pastor at the time, Bob Bricker who was serving at Southside Christian Church. At one point the board was down to just Bricker, Rey, and Pat Metzer as HOPE Ministries struggled to raise funds.

Rey said the key that drives changes when mixed with providing practical needs and the grasp of how to navigate pitfalls to stay off the streets is love.

“Christ loved everyone,” Rey said. “. . . Everyone needs to be loved.”

Among the others honored were Sequoia Heights Baptist Church as the Church Partner of the Year, Sutter Health Gould Medical Foundation as the Corporate Partner of the Year, Dave Byrd as volunteer of the year, Love INC  as the ministry partner of the year, Second Harvest Food Bank as the community partner of the year, Simas Flooring as the Small Business Partner of the Year, and Peggy Saul who has served for 15 years as HOPE Ministries marriage and family therapist.

About HOPE

Family Shelters

HOPE operates three shelters — one serves family, another is for mothers with children, and the other is transitional housing. They are drug-free meaning clients must be clean and stay that way during their stay. HOPE also established HELP Outreach in partnership with the Manteca Homeless Task Force to address issues with those living on the street.

A family’s stay in a HOPE shelter is typically two months. During that time adults and children have access to counseling services, classes in budgeting and financing, and — if they are not employed — are coached how to seek employment. 

Between 2014 and 2017, HOPE served 948 individuals in 275 families. Of those, 35 percent found permanent housing, less than 9 percent returned to homeless, and the rest either moved in with family members or some other shared arrangement. Typically with shelters in California the success rate at finding permanent housing is 15 percent.

The success rate for 2017 for HOPE clients finding permanent housing hit 44 percent. Even more impressive for last year was the fact 100 percent of the clients that did not have a job when they started their two-month stay in the shelter were employed before they left the program.

Businesses, churches, service clubs, and individuals donate $320,000 a year to keep the doors of HOPE shelters open. The rest of the non-profit’s $360,000 annual budget — $40,000 — comes from government sources.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email