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Kids in a Box event underscores how 60% of those HOPE Ministries help shelter each year are children
Participants at a previous Kids in the Box event.

They are the Manteca homeless anyone rarely recognizes.

You will not see them panhandling nor will you see them getting into trouble with police.

They are children that are part of intact families that for a variety of reasons ranging from loss of jobs, poor financial decisions, a major illness or ever increasing rents that find themselves homeless in Manteca and nearby communities.

More often than not the families bounce around from motel room to the couch or garages of people willing to take them in for a period of time. It is not rare for several days a month when they run out of money or wear out their welcome that they will spend a night or two on the streets sleeping in a car.

They are the homeless that have been assisted by HOPE Ministries for more than 26 years. In a typical year, 260 people are housed in HOPE shelters while working to get their financial house in order and addressing issues that can run the gamut from abusive relationships, poor money management to self-esteem that are at the root of how they ended up homeless. Of those 260 people provided shelter for two to three months while families work to pull things together, some 60 percent of them are children.

“There are a lot of reasons people become homeless,” noted HOPE Family Shelters Executive Director Cecily Ballungay.

She added all the homeless don’t fit into stereotyped personas formed by people’s encounters with some of the homeless who are single adults. As Ballungay is well aware, many are intact families or single moms with children. And because of that the vast majority of struggling homeless that HOPE Family Shelters help are children.

The need to draw a complete picture of the homeless problem is the impetus behind HOPE Family Shelters’ annual overnight Kids in the Box event taking place May 10-11.

The primary goal isn’t to raise money even though that is always a pressing need given that more than 90 percent of the annual $342,000 needed to operate the three shelters comes from the private sector through churches, businesses, individuals, and non-profit foundations. The balance comes from government grants.

“We stage it primarily to raise awareness about the homeless in our community,” Ballungay said.

How under the radar many homeless are was illustrated during a Kids in the Box event conducted 10 years ago on the grounds of the Raymus House for single moms with children when Dave Thompson was serving as executive director. 

Two of the youngsters who were participating were seventh graders. They were stunned to discover that one of the kids staying at Raymus House with her mom was a classmate.

Manteca Unified — which in November had 711 students that were identified under the 1987 federal McKinney Vento Act as being homeless — works to make sure that regardless of their housing situation that homeless children maintain continuity in the school they attend. Homeless, under federal law, includes youngsters whose families often move between families willing to house them for short periods of time.

In a bid to make Kids in a Box a fun activity as well as to raise awareness and funds, the May 10-11 event on Friday evening includes a BBQ, bounce house, cakewalk, music, face painting, henna, a petting zoo, Mother’s Day crafts and more.

There is also a competition for the most uniquely decorated boxes that typically tend to be appliance boxes or other large boxes cobbled together. In the past some of the more elaborate boxes have been made to look like gingerbread homes and even castles.

There is also a competition for those who raise the most funds.

The prizes include four one-day hopper tickets to Disneyland, two Six Flags tickets, four Sacramento Zoo tickets are more.

The event is Friday, May 10, from 5 p.m. to Saturday, May 11, at 8 a.m. at the grounds of Calvary Community Church, 815 W. Lathrop Road, Manteca.

Youth groups, Scout troops, sports teams or groups of friends are encouraged to participate.

To register, call 209.665.7640 or 209.824.0658.