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New center will help step up help with destructive behavior, issues homelessness creates for children
HOPE wellness center
HOPE Ministries Chief Executive Officer Cecily Ballungay is shown outside of the new Margaret Ann Rey, Children of HOPE Wellness Center” being dedicated on Friday.

The pandemic is tough on the mental health of tweens and teens that have a stable home.

But for those youth that are homeless, it has added to a list of mental issues they are already vulnerable to ranging from issues triggered by where they will sleep on any given night, whether there will have food to eat, to dealing with ill-fitting clothes.

“In the past year we’ve seen an increase in self-mutilation and destructive behavior among youth in our shelters,” HOPE Ministries CEO Cecily Ballungay noted on Tuesday.

That uptick in destructive behavior includes two attempted suicides with the most recent being a youth that tried to hang their self with shoe laces.

Ballungay noted homeless youth often are burdened with the added stigma of “being the kid in school that lives in a homeless shelter.”

HOPE Ministries recognized six years ago the need for counseling services targeted homeless youth that are members of families the non-profit helps shelter and works to stand on their own two feet. To that goal during the past year with the pandemic, 49 percent of all families temporarily housed by HOPE Family Shelters have been able to secure permanent housing on their own.

To put that in perspective, the year prior the pandemic they were enjoying a 42 percent success rate. The national average for homeless shelters to see the clients they help go from a temporary stay in their shelter into permanent housing they secure on their own is 15 percent.

Youth counseling services are vital In helping repair family dynamics and making it possible for HOPE clients to be able to shelter their families.


Kaiser stepped up in a big

way for homeless youth

Two years ago the HOPE Ministries staff and board realized if they had a more focused way of addressing youth counseling that they could address even more issues that create obstacles for homeless youth when it comes to their ability to succeed in life. A key step would be to provide a space more conducive to youth mental health counseling where kids would be more at ease.

Kaiser Permanente representatives heard about what HOPE Ministries was endeavoring to do.

They stepped up and presented HOPE Ministries $90,000 toward securing space for a homeless youth mental health program.

That got the ball rolling.

Now, two years later, HOPE Ministries on Friday at 10 a.m. is staging a grand opening of the newly constructed 1,600-square-foot Margaret Ann Rey, Children of HOPE Wellness Center on the campus of the Raymus Home for single moms and their children at 520 South Union Road.

The project — that was estimated to cost $369,000 — was done for $104,000 less thanks to donated and or/reduced material costs as well as donated labor by Raymus Homes and the contractors they work with.

The balance of the $173,000 needed came from people and business that stepped up when they heard about the need.
Ballungay said those donated said they were driven to do so to help make sure the homeless youth could properly access services designed to make sure they can grow up healthy, safe, and happy and go on to have a productive life.

The ribbon cutting being coordinated by the Manteca Chamber of Commerce will be done outdoors to comply with COVID protocols. There will be small group tours of the facility conducted.

The facility includes an office and reception area.

The wellness center has two key areas. The first is a spacious and inviting large therapist office for one-on-one counseling.

The heart is devoted to a welcoming space that has a feel of a great room. It is accomplished with touches such as window seating that is part of cabinetry work, inviting and soothing colors, along with added touches  such as a large TV screen, foosball table, and young child’s play area. There will be wall art added in one corner created for the specific purpose of inspiring kids to take selfies.

Four days a week — Monday through Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. — there will be age-specific group sessions designed to allow youth clients of HOPE Family Shelters.

Ballungay said simply being able to chat with others in a similar situation in a relaxing setting can go along way with helping youth. On Fridays, it will be a place where youth in the shelters can gather just to hang out and have fun.

The counseling services using licensed marriage and family therapists will be able to refer clients to outside agencies once specific issues are identified.

The wellness center — in a nutshell — will provide access, observation, assessment, and treatment of homeless youth experiencing mental health issues.

Depending upon how long their families or mother is in a HOPE shelter — it can range from three to six months for temporary housing to two years for transitional housing — they will have their needs addressed through a robust case management effort.

The counseling services are far from one-dimensional. For example, there are therapy sessions for children whose parents are recovering substance abusers.

As part of the city’s requirement for a new building, taller fencing using cyclone with privacy slats was added on the east side of the campus replacing a wooden fence that separated Raymus Home from neighboring houses.


HOPE Ministries has

helped 5,400 people

They were also required to add eight parking spaces, a charger for an electric vehicle, a new trash enclosure, landscaping, and making sure all sidewalks and slopes are Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

HOPE Ministries is in its 27th year of helping homeless families get back on their feet.  Overall, they have helped more than 5,400 people since they first opened their doors in 1994.

In a typical year the non-profit assists 180 to 225 individuals. Of those, 60 percent are children. HOPE operates three shelters. The others are a family shelter on Yosemite Avenue west of downtown and transitional housing near Doctors Hospital of Manteca.

HOPE Ministries currently has a $369,000 annual budget. That will go up to $400,000 with the opening of the wellness center. The shelters receive just $60,000 from state and federal government sources. The rest is covered by donations from churches, private foundations, individuals, businesses, and service organizations.

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To contact Dennis Wyatt, email