While a report to the Hollister City Council on Sept. 16 showed progress at the homeless shelter, proof of the shelter’s value was evident in the faces and statements of Larry and Alma Smith (no relation). They are staying at the HOME Resource Center, located at 1161 San Felipe Road, and spoke about how it has improved their lives.
Larry spoke of how he ended up on the streets 10 years ago when his mother died and the bank repossessed her home. He said his life spiraled out of control when he started using drugs.
“Thanks to the shelter, I’m just over a year and a half clean and my sobriety is not negotiable anymore,” he said. “I have two granddaughters and a 16-year-old daughter, and it’s time.”
Smith said the shelter gives him the structure he needs to succeed as a person, as an artist, and as a musician.
“Since I’ve been there a little over six months, I’ve met a guy who plays guitar and we’re planning to get on stage in Santa Cruz for the summer concerts,” he said. “This is a necessity and we need to keep it open.”
Since he’s been at the shelter, Larry’s seen other homeless people working together to overcome their issues, which he said is not normally the case. He said he was grateful for a place to rest his head and find a job.
Alma Smith said she’s lived at the shelter for five months.
“It’s a place I never thought I’d go to,” she said, adding that she went from living in a four-bedroom home to the shelter. “They have much to offer. You’ve got a bed and somewhere to come to at the end of the day.”
She said she works five days a week and even though she has family, she values her independence and chooses to live at the shelter to have a place to eat, sleep and shower.
“When you’re alone and need some way to start, it’s a benefit to you,” she said. “I found a one-bedroom place. It took me a few months and I’ll be moving out of [the shelter] in a week or two. I’m very grateful that we have this. If we didn’t, where would we be?”
The HOME Resource Center has 50 beds—28 for men and 22 for women. There are also showers, a kitchen and a laundry facility. Nonprofit Community Homeless Solutions manages the shelter with an annual operating budget of $617,000. According to a biennial homeless population count conducted on Jan. 31, there are 289 homeless individuals in San Benito County. There were 527 individuals counted in 2017.
In his report to council members, San Benito County Health and Human Services Director Enrique Arreola said a $1.45 million grant will allow for construction of eight transitional housing units at the shelter in April 2020.
Community Homeless Solutions Program Manager Christina Soto said the average nightly attendance is 43 people and that 313 “unduplicated people” have stayed at the shelter since it opened in 2017. There are more men waiting to get in than there is room available, she said, and five men called to see if they could get in on the night of the meeting.
“Our average age of a homeless person walking in is 52,” Soto said. “Fifty-eight have found employment, 82 have found housing, 105 of them have been moved to other supportive services throughout the county and city, and we’ve had 69,319 meals served because we serve three meals a day, seven days a week.”
She thanked Tina Garza, the city’s recreation supervisor, for “hooking the shelter up with Martha’s Kitchen, where they provide us up to six trays a week on days we do not have dinners sponsored. So our food budget is relatively nothing.”
Soto said the last time she appeared before the council, members had asked how many people at the shelter were from Hollister.
“Seventy-eight percent of our guests are from Hollister,” Soto said. “Twenty-two percent are out of county and we’ve had a couple from out of state.”
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Homeless shelter opens Dec. 1; unclear if city will provide funding