Auburn offers variety of services for the homeless

Resident said church and other groups helped get him back on his feet
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Kendall Porco believes offering assistance to the homeless is showing kindness to a group of people who don’t often see it. Homeless Auburn residents trying to get back on their feet have a number of services to turn to. Porco is the coordinator of Auburn Adventist Community Services, part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Rock Creek Road. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday the church offers food, clothes, showers and friendship to the local homeless. “We see about 90 clients,” Porco said. “Homeless come every week. Our low-income that have housing come once a month. I think part of it is just the human contact, the nurturing our volunteers give – just so they know someone cares. There are not really a lot of showers that are available to our homeless clients. A lot of our clients say this is the highlight of their week.” Through the program, the homeless get about 25 pounds of food a week and a new outfit, Porco said. “We give out sleeping bags if they need it and shoes also, depending on the season,” Porco said. Porco said the program is run by donations from the community. Fresh vegetables are grown in the church’s garden and distributed to clients. Some of the homeless clients volunteer to work in the garden as well. At 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays the church holds a Community Breakfast for anyone in the area who wants to come, including the homeless. Steve Holm, who coordinates the breakfast, said about 60 to 70 people usually attend. The Auburn Interfaith Food Closet on Richardson Drive offers food to the homeless Monday through Friday and the last Saturday of the month. “We tailor what we give to them,” said Sandy Bassett, president of the food closet. “So, say they don’t have cooking facilities. We give them the types of food that don’t have to be cooked. We have guidelines developed especially for the homeless that focus on a lot of canned meat. We give them vegetables and we give them fruit. And sometimes we get sandwiches donated from the delis, and if we have those available, they particularly like to get the sandwiches.” The food closet offers other items as well. “The other thing we do for the homeless is we have a personal care kit that contains little items like shampoo, soap, shaving cream, a shaver, toothbrush, toothpaste and even a little packet of tissues,” Bassett said. “We give them those packets once a month and we think that goes a long way toward helping them stay clean and healthy. Some of the families have children, so we have a little book program. We allow the children to take a book each time they come.” An Auburn man who goes by the name of Dawson used to be homeless. Now Dawson has been working for five months and has a home. “All the programs out there helped, like The Gathering Inn, and the (Placer County) Welcome Center and the (Seventh-day Adventist) Church,” Dawson said. “It has been mainly the people in the church, they are so caring.” Dawson said he had never been unemployed before when he lost his job in the auto body business. Then one day he was referred to the Auburn Adventist Community Services. “I was looking for work every day and in my line of work there wasn’t anything,” he said. “The church started giving me odd jobs here and there.” Dawson said he knows there are homeless people who accept free services and aren’t trying to better their lives, but not everyone is like that. “Don’t classify everybody because of a few people,” he said. “There are programs out there. If you want to really give it 100 percent, you can get housing … you can apply yourself.” Dawson showed up at the church one day and started working in the garden and he’s been doing that for a year. He said people notice hard work and are more likely to give jobs based on that. “Slowly, surely, (some homeless) are out there trying, and people see that,” he said. Dawson said the work has helped rid himself of his past demons. “Next thing all this garbage in my head … is all gone and the good things stick,” he said. The Gathering Inn is a Placer County nonprofit organization that offers over-night shelter at 60 churches throughout the county, including 10 in Auburn. The organization also offers food to its clients as well as several programs to get homeless on the right track to jobs, housing and, if necessary, a drug and alcohol-free life. The Auburn Salvation Army offers three services to local homeless: emergency food assistance, clothing vouchers and bus tickets, according to Stefanie Vrapi, spokeswoman for the Auburn Salvation Army. The organization offers boxes of food that can sustain a family for one week and provided 7,628 meals in March, Vrapi said. Vrapi said families could visit the Salvation Army every six months to receive clothing vouchers for every family member. The vouchers can be redeemed in local Salvation Army Family Stores. The organization gives out bus tickets so the homeless population can make it to medical appointments, job interviews and other necessary obligations, Vrapi said. Bassett said she hopes the food closet and other services are a positive part of the lives of local homeless. “We are not able to solve all their problems,” she said. “We are just able to help them get the food they need, and food is a very basic necessity for everyone. We just feel like that’s an important thing.” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------- Some local services for the homeless · Auburn Adventist Community Services: 12225 Rock Creek Road, Auburn. Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday. Information: (530) 823-0345, · Auburn Interfaith Food Closet: 2985 Richardson Drive, Auburn. Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday and last Saturday of the month. Information: (530) 885-1921, · The Gathering Inn: 201 Berkeley Avenue, Roseville. Information: (916) 791-9355, · Auburn Salvation Army: 286 Sutter St., Auburn. Information: (530) 889-3990, ------------------------------------------------------- Placer County services for the homeless Placer County has several assistance options for local homeless. According to Maureen Bauman, director of the county’s Adult System of Care, the county works with the Salvation Army to issue $40,000 in vouchers through the Emergency Voucher and Emergency Housing programs. The county also spends $60,000 to serve 50 families through a CalWORKS Homeless Assistance program, Bauman said. Bauman said this program has no waiting list and is available as people need it. She said it is usually short-term assistance. The program provides assistance to homeless in a number of ways, including helping them find employment resources, Bauman said. Bauman said the county also has Section 8 housing vouchers. The federal program allows those who qualify to stay in individual apartments. The program’s funding is $1.8 million, the majority of which are federal dollars. The county contracts with the Sierra Foothills AIDS Foundation for a housing opportunity for people who have AIDS. It currently serves 50 people and has $53,000 of funding, according to Bauman. Bauman said the county also has a medical assistance program for those with little or no income. It provides primary care and specialty provider care depending on need. Its cost for 2010/11 is $7 million. The county’s outreach program for the mentally ill, including homeless who are mentally ill, has a yearly cost of $2.3 million, she said. Other assistance programs are available for those who qualify, Bauman said. For more information call the Placer County Human Services Division at (530) 889-7610. ~Bridget Jones