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  October 8, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA

articles list

A Final Goodbye to St. Joseph the Worker School

GRIP's homeless shelter at risk of closing

Parish expansion in Pleasanton

Waiting to die, she prayed, survived Rwanda genocide

Fr. Donald Hudson
Sr. Marietta Conrardy, CSJ

Catholic Charities USA decries veto of SCHIP bill

'Reclaiming Fatherhood' movement helps men touched by abortion

Vatican says food, water must be provided to vegetative patients

Diagnosing persistent vegetative state not exact

Vatican official tells U.N. that climate change demands a cooperative international strategy

Church workers in Brazil wary of ethanol boom

Maryknoll's work in North Korea diocese honored

New online survey asks Catholics to rate quality of singing in church


GRIP’s homeless shelter at risk of closing

How to help

If you’d like to help any of the several faith-based programs providing shelter, meals, employment and counseling services to homeless families and senior citizens, here is now to contact them.

GRIP: 165 22nd St., Richmond, CA 94801. (510) 233-2141. Web site: www.gripcommunity.org.

St. Mary’s Center: 925 Brockhurst St. Oakland, CA 94608-4222. (510) 923-9600. Web site: www.stmaryscenter.org.

FESCO: 21455 Birch St., Box 5, Hayward, CA 94541. (510) 886-5473. Web site: www.fescofamilyshelter.org.

Winter Nights Shelter: 1543 Sunnyvale Ave., Walnut Creek, CA 94597. (925) 933-6030. Web site: www.cccwinternights.org.
Click onto the web site of any East Bay non-profit working to feed and house the homeless and you’ll find a “Wish List” with needs ranging from cash donations to furniture to cars to volunteers.

However, the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program’s “Wish List” plea has plummeted to its most basic depth — the ability to remain open. If GRIP doesn’t raise $50,000 by Oct. 15, the organization’s 75-bed emergency shelter and transitional housing operation will have to close.

That means the 68 residents – most of them children — will be homeless again, said Robert Scotlan, financial director.

GRIP’s financial crisis came to a head several weeks ago when two state-administered grants of $100,000 each did not materialize as expected, said Father John Maxwell, a founding member of the 40-year old interfaith organization of churches and synagogues.

But Father Maxwell, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in El Cerrito, is hopeful the
shelter can remain open. He bases his optimism on the City of Richmond’s recent offer of a $50,000 matching grant. The offer, of course, hinges upon GRIP finding the rest of the money. “$100,000 will keep us going for another five months until we can apply for more grants in March,” Father Maxwell said.

Scotlan said many of the 40 churches which help support GRIP’s shelter have already contributed nearly one-quarter of the needed amount.

Father Maxwell is hopeful that individual donations and money from GRIP’s 21st annual Harmony Walk to End Hunger on Oct. 13 will bring in the rest of the money. The fundraiser begins at 9 a.m. at Richmond’s Kennedy Park.

St. Jerome Parish in El Cerrito has already sent $1,000 from a meat loaf dinner it sponsored, said Judy Valladao, parish volunteer coordinator for outreach efforts.
The timing of GRIP’s financial crisis couldn’t be worse. Last year, after many years of fundraising, the group finally opened the new two-story, 12,000 square foot building with 75 beds of emergency shelter and transitional housing, a new kitchen facility and dining room, and consolidated office space for support staff.
GRIP is not alone in its struggle to find funds.

St. Mary’s Senior Center in Oakland, the Family Emergency Shelter Coalition (FESCO) in Hayward, and the Winter Nights Rotating Shelter Program in Walnut Creek have also experienced grant proposal turndowns or funding reductions this year. Although none of the three are currently in danger of closing, the possibility of having to do so is a constantly lurking worry for directors and staff alike.

Carol Johnson, St. Mary’s director, said she has seen reductions in both public and private grant money over the past several years — $3,000 here, $4,000 there. But taken together, those cuts add up, she said.

“It’s not cheap to run a shelter, if you do it right,” said Johnson. St. Mary’s spends $150,000 to operate its five-month winter shelter for seniors. The money pays the salaries for on-site staff and case managers.

“At the federal level, there is absolutely a decline in energy around homeless and housing,” Johnson said. “These are just not priority issues anymore.”
Private foundations seem to be moving away from homeless issues, too, said Johnson. “It just makes no sense.”

Nancy Schluntz, executive director of FESCO, a nonprofit organization of 30 churches and community members in the Hayward area, said her program is running at a deficit of $50,000 to $60,000. That’s less than five percent of her annual budget. “We are watching it carefully. This is certainly an area of concern, but we are not panicking at this point,” she said.

Schluntz said that 50 percent of her funding comes from a variety of public funding sources, another 15 percent from private foundations, and the remaining 35 percent from individuals, churches, organizations, businesses and the organization’s fundraising.

“We count heavily on community giving,” she emphasized. FESCO spends about $50 a day per person to provide 24-hour shelter, meals, counseling, case management, and life skills education.

“That’s a lot of money, though it’s still much less than emergency rooms and prisons,” she said.

Banyan House, FESCO’s multi-unit community living center, is filled to capacity with 24 residents, two thirds of them children. Its four-unit transitional housing project is filled to capacity as well.

In spite of the financial worries, Schluntz says that “in the overall scheme of things we just have faith. What else can I say?”

Gwen Watson depends a lot on faith, too. The Winter Nights Shelter, a six-and-a-half month revolving shelter program in Contra Costa County sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, will open Oct. 15 with a grand total of $35,000.

“We have operated on a wing and a prayer since we started four years ago,” said Watson, the shelter program’s director.

The annual budget is $132,000. Some of the money comes from public and private foundations, but Watson said the bulk of funding comes from the coalition’s 26 member congregations, which include nine Catholic parishes in the area.

Most of the budget goes to pay the salaries for five around-the-clock supervisors and for insurance. Watson gets no salary. Neither do her professional fundraising writer, van driver, and social worker. Host congregations provide three meals a day and their facilities to house 30 individuals — senior citizens and families. “The majority are always kids,” Watson said.

She praised the generosity of the participating churches, but said that coming up with all the money she needs “is always a struggle.”

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