There are 136 kids less kids living in cars, couch surfing, or moving in and out of motels today than there were a year ago.
It’s because Manteca churches and their respective congregations joined forces 30 years ago this month to form HOPE Ministries.
The goal was simple: Lend a helping hand to give homeless families hope.
The debut of HOPE Family Shelters as a positive force of change in Manteca occurred in March 1993. That’s when the first family moved into an aging apartment complex purchased on the combined strength of donations from congregations across Manteca.
In 2022, 89 families were housed in HOPE Ministries’ three shelters for three months at a time.
That represents 227 individuals of which 60 percent or 136 were children.
And when 50 percent of those families left the guidance and care of HOPE Family Shelters they went directly into rental housing they were able to secure financially on their own.
That success rate is almost triple of what most shelters experience when people they assist temporarily move on. And it was as high as 62 percent before the COVID-19 pandemic hit that created issues for HOPE Ministries’ efforts as it did in every aspect of life.
One reason for the high success rate is the fact HOPE Ministries operates what is considered a high barrier shelter. That means those they help must be drug and alcohol free when they enter the program and stay that way.
If they stumble, they are out on the street. But as Executive Director Cecily Ballungay, noted people are given a second chance to return to the program if they stop using.
“It helps them realize what drugs and alcohol are costing (not just them but) their children,” Ballungay said.
The bottom line is it forces most to realize that they are putting drugs and/or alcohol, ahead of their children.
It is a sobering epiphany that for many parents and single moms is life changing.
One of HOPE’s success stories — a single mother that was sheltered with her young son — was among those that stumbled.
A case management worker found a bottle of alcohol in her refrigerator one day. That resulted in her and her son being kicked out of the shelter
She got a second chance when she applied later and was clean.
Last year the single mom bought a mobile home where she is now raising her 6-year-old son after being re-admitted to the shelter during which time she got a job and was able to move into one of HOPE’s transitional housing units.
Ballungay said the no tolerance approach to drugs and alcohol is just part of the equation.
Robust case management that includes working with clients to help them to make better financial decisions, working on behavioral factors that contributed to them ending up being homeless, along with mentoring for life skills make a major difference.
Because of HOPE Family Shelters’ approach that allows it to enjoy an unusually high success rate, securing federal and state grants is daunting.
The massive amount of government funds available for shelters are for those that are low-barrier meaning drug and alcohol screening is off the table in almost all cases.
As a result, more than 92 percent of the $424,000 they need to operate three shelters each year has to comes from private sector grants, individual donations, and church groups.
Overall, HOPE Ministries helped more than 5,700 people since they first opened their doors.
The family shelter on Yosemite Avenue has seven apartments. The non-profit has acquired an adjacent lot with a house they plan to convert into a counseling center for families residing in the complex. They also hope to build three additional apartments that could end up housing between 6 and 24 more people at any given time.
HOPE Ministries also operates a shelter for single moms and children in a former rest home on South Union Road. That is in addition to a six-unit transitional housing complex near Doctors Hospital where families can stay for up to two years and pay 30 percent of their income in rent
Highlights of HOPE’s first 30 years are as follows
*1993: The first family moves into the apartment complex bought for use as a family shelter in the 500 block of West Yosemite. The complex was originally built as Manteca’s first hospital in 1919 during the Great Flu Epidemic and was converted to apartments two years later. The first director is hired.
*1998: Jim Prestwood becomes the shelter director. The formation of workshops and counseling programs begin along with CalWORKs collaboration.
*1999: The beginning of the welfare to work program.
*2000: Implementation of family and women’s counseling services.
*2001: Central Valley Low Income Housing Corporation partners with HOPE. Dave Thompson is hired as the sheeter director.
*2004: Raymus House shelter for single moms and their children opens.
*2005: A new drug and rehabilitation program is implemented.
*2007: The transitional shelter is acquired.
*2012: The City of Manteca invests $1.2 million in redevelopment funds to modernize the original shelter on Yosemite Avenue.
*2014: Ballungay is hired as director and implements Project Hope and Interns of Hope programs.
*2015: Project Hope proves to be successful with an immediate success rate of clients finding permanent housing upon existing the program.
*2016: The first annual Night of Hope dinner is conducted and raised more than $25,000. The Donation Center was built at Raymus House to support incoming donations.
*2017: The work preparedness program was created to provide clients with job preparedness.
*2018: HOPE established the Children of Hope — a mental health and well-being program for children at the shelters.
*2020: Continued to provide services throughout the pandemic.
*2021: Grand opening of the Margaret Ann Rey Children of Home Wellness center. It was named for longtime board member and volunteer Margaret Ann Rey who became a part of HOPE in 1999.
2022: HOPE Ministries celebrates its first homeless-to-homeowner client. The nonprofit acquires property at 520 Yosemite Ave. for expansion of shelter space and services.
Next fundraise and find
out ways you can help
HOPE Family Shelters will benefit from a dinner, bunco, and poker night on Saturday, April 1, at the Manteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane.
Dinner only tickets are $30, bunco buy-in and dinner tickets are $40, and poker buy-in and dinner tickets are $60.
Doors open at 5 p.m., dinner is at 6 p.m., and bunco/poker starts at 7 p.m. The dinner is being catered by Texas Roadhouse. For tickets visit www.hopefamilyselters.org
The $$424,000 the community invests in HOPE Shelters pays big dividends. If you can, help call Ballungay at (209) 824-0658 or go to hopefamilyshelters.org.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org