Think homeless shelter and most people have a vision of a barracks-style facility with an endless sea of beds, minimal furnishings, and an atmosphere that is drab at best.
That might explain why donors who see a HOPE Family Shelters facility for the first time are a bit shocked.
“It’s not what they were expecting,” noted HOPE Executive Director Cecily Ballungay.
And if the general public is surprised, HOPE case worker Michelle Whitaker says the clients are stunned.
“They expect a drab dormitory,” Whitaker noted. “It’s not unusual to see a tear or two.”
What they get instead is the vision of the coalition of Manteca churches that formed HOPE Ministries 25 years ago as an outreach to families struggling to get off the streets.
None of the three HOPE Family Shelters — the Raymus House for single moms and kids on Union Road, the HOPE Shelter on Yosemite Avenue for families, or the transitional housing near Doctors Hospital of Manteca — fit the standard expectations of shelters.
That is especially true with the flagship shelter on Yosemite Avenue just two blocks west of Manteca.
It was originally built in 1919 as Manteca’s first hospital in response to the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 to accommodate 30 patients with 18 private rooms, two wards, an operating room, and two bathrooms. It closed on June 4, 1920 some 10 months after it was opened and was converted to eight apartments.
HOPE Ministries purchased the aging complex a quarter of a century ago. Then seven years ago the City of Manteca using revenue from the now defunct Manteca Redevelopment Agency paid for a $1.2 million makeover and modernization that took care to preserve and enhance 1919 architectural sensibilities. My comparison the hospital was built in 1919 for $25,000.
The renovation was in the form of a 55-year loan from the city that would be forgiven in 2046 providing that it is used as a homeless shelter the entire time.
There are eight one bedroom apartments complete with bathrooms and living areas that include a kitchen. Seven are for families and one is for the site manager. There are no TV sets to distract families from the task of preparing themselves to stand on their own.
It required the modification of walls and ceiling to accommodate duct work. The interior floors are tile in keeping with the low maintenance directive. While there are low water flow toilets the bathrooms, the actual bathroom itself has tile patterns that reflect the 1910s period plus a sink that also reflects the style of the time. Each unit has a new refrigerator and stove complete with kitchen cabinets. Coved ceilings were retained to reflect the era. Fire sprinklers were also installed.
The exterior stairwells that flanked the front courtyard/patio were removed and a new staircase installed in the middle. The hospital originally had staircases inside the building. A lifetime roof was installed using metal shingles.
A laundry room and office structure was built in the back with off-street parking added on the alley. The city also redid the sidewalk, sewer, water, and storm drain lines.
At the suggestion of shelter directors in neighboring communities that have seen the Hope Shelter, Ballungay said the non-profit offers quick tours to the public so they can see the Manteca homeless facilities are far from what is typically seen in newscasts.
Much of what makes the units at the Yosemite Avenue shelter as well as rooms in the Raymus House not just livable but pleasant as well is ongoing efforts of churches, businesses, service clubs, and trade unions to adopt rooms.
That has also allowed the HOPE Ministries to direct scarce resource to counseling and live skills classes that are proving key to keeping the majority of their clients from returning to the streets once they complete their typical two to three month stay at one of the shelters.
While there are no set rules for what groups adopting rooms do, the basic needs are linens for beds and such as well as painting walls and furnishing as needed.
If a group wishes to replace furniture or other items, what they replace is made available to families when they move into their own housing to rent as they rarely have any furniture such as beds, couches and tables.
Each unit is 600 square feet and typically will house between three and six people although there have been times when large families — the largest was a couple, with nine children — has been housed in one unit thanks to extra bedding and air mattresses.
Given that 80 percent of the $300,000 required to operate the shelters comes from donations from churches, businesses, individuals, and non –profits as well as private sector grants with the rest from government sources any donations of items such as toiletries, toilet paper, and food allows the shelter to direct financial resources to programs aimed at helping families be equipped so that when they leave they can avoid a return to the streets.
Most of their tenants have jobs and those that don’t they work with them to secure employment. The money they save from not paying rent or food and other typical things a family uses daily is saved to allow them to save the crucial first month’s rent and deposit required to secure a rental.
HOPE Family Shelters works with landlords that have come to trust the effectiveness of their programs at providing their clients with the discipline and tools needed to manage a budget and be responsible renters.
During 2017, HOPE Shelters housed 283 people with most of them children.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com