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Helps raise awareness about homeless

Kids in a Box does collect some money to help HOPE Family Shelters with the daunting task of raising $360,000 a year needed to not just temporarily house nearly 300 people a year but to get them on track to providing shelter for themselves.

But its real purpose is to help raise awareness about homelessness in Manteca.

And in past years the event — that takes place Sept. 21-22 — has done that very effectively.

In 2010, then executive director Dave Thompson related how eighth graders participating in Kids in the Box on the grounds of the Raymus House were stunned to discover among the homeless children being housed who mingled and played games with those participating in the event was a longtime classmate.

Most of the homeless sheltered by HOPE Ministries are children. Of the 283 people housed in 2017, the vast majority were children.

“It definitely raises awareness,” noted current executive director Cecily Ballungay. “There is no stereotype of a homeless (individual). They can be a classmate.”

There are two parts to the Kids in a Box event.

The first is an event on Friday, Sept. 21, from, 6 to 8 p.m. at Calvary Community Church, 815 W. Lathrop Road. It is open to the community to promote homeless awareness. It includes a BBQ, bounce houses, cakewalk, music, face painting zoo, and more.

The second is an overnight event. It starts at 5 p.m. on Sept. 21 with registered participants setting up their cardboard box “houses” and then joining in the fun activities. They then retire to their boxes to experience sleeping overnight in a box until 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Groups need to generate $50 in donations to participate although Ballungay indicates they typically end up collecting more to help the homeless families.

Kids are encouraged to decorate their boxes for the chaperoned overnight event. Some stick with plain boxes, others paint them as simple houses. Some get real creative with the most elaborate in recent years being replicas of structures from the Harry Potter movie set.

Nearly 90 percent of the $375,000 annually needed to operate HOPE Ministries’ three shelters and provide programs that are key to helping families avoid being on the street come from donations from churches, individuals, organizations, and businesses. The balance comes from federal grants.

HOPE operates three shelters — one serves family, another is for mothers with children, and the other is transitional housing — 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 and work

A family’s stay in a HOPE shelter is typically two months. During that time adults and children have access to counseling services, classes is 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.

The non-profit is now in its 25th year.

For more information about Kids in a Box contact Ballungay at (209) 824-0658 or go to


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email