|October 7, 2013 • VOL. 51, NO. 17 • Oakland, CA|
| St. Mary's Center Gala
more important than ever
As planners put the finishing touches on preparations for this year's Saint Mary's Center Gala, there are more than the usual hopes riding on its success.
This year's most pressing need appears to be the emergency winter shelter for low-income people older than 55, which is scheduled to open Dec. 1 despite losing $100,000 in funding that had previously been directed to it by the city of Oakland.
It costs $150,000 to run the shelter, which is open five months a year, for 25 guests.
"We're not going to stop doing our shelter because of policy shift," said Carol Johnson, executive director of St. Mary's Center. "We'll move forward with a wing and a prayer."
Federal assistance for the emergency shelter — which had come to St. Mary's Center through the city of Oakland — is being reduced in favor of initiatives that provide more permanent housing for those who request it.
This works well, Johnson said, in areas where there is available housing.
But that's not true in the East Bay, she said, where housing for extremely low-income people is scarce.
At the emergency winter shelter, in addition to meals and a roof over their heads, shelter guests receive the services of a case manager, which is an important stepping stone to more stable housing.
For many of the clients, the weakened economy of the past decade is still taking its toll. "A lot of people we see in our shelter had a job, a house and a very different life," said Katrina Brekke-Miesner, development associate.
Among those who are helping make life inside that shelter more comfortable, Johnson said, are several Oakland diocese parishes that make financial contributions, provide meals to the guests during their winter stay, and contribute money for bus fare and other necessities.
In its latest annual report, St. Mary's Center noted that 2,667 elders, children and families were impacted by the center. Among them are the 40 children, ages 3 to 5, enrolled in St. Mary's Center Preschool.
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