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Gathering Inn to reopen homeless shelter Monday

Organization raises $117,000 from local businesses during event
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The Gathering Inn will reopen its shelter after a seven-week hiatus on Monday thanks largely to the donations of local businesses.

The nonprofit organization was able to finalize plans to reopen following a $100,000 donation during an event at the Flower Farm in Loomis on Sept. 10. Those funds came in the form of $80,000 from Wells Fargo, and $10,000 each from Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital and Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

In donating the money, the groups issued a challenge to more businesses to assist the Gathering Inn. During the event, other businesses present gave $17,000, which means $83,000 is still needed to match the donation.

The Gathering Inn raised an additional $50,000 prior to Monday's event, providing the $150,000 needed to reopen.

"It's heartwarming that the community really has stepped up," said Executive Director Suzi deFosset. "What I've heard from most people that it was eye-opening how important the shelter has become to the community."

The nonprofit organization ceased shelter operations July 30 due to lack of funds - but the plan was for the closure to last no more than eight weeks.

DeFosset said on the night of Sept. 10 a member of Roseville's homeless population died on the street. He had previously received shelter services from the Gathering Inn. When the shelter closed, he was given a bus ticket to see his family. When he returned, he was "intoxicated most of the time," deFosset said.

She attributes his death to substance abuse. With the shelter reopening, hopefully no one else will suffer the same fate of dying outside on the street, she said.

"We're grateful for the support of the community," deFosset said. "We hope we don't ever have to close our doors again."

Dr. Chris Palkowski, physician in chief at Kaiser's Roseville medical center, said the Gathering Inn provides a vital service to the community.

"It's a grassroots organization which is dealing successfully with the important human and social problem of homelessness," Palkowski said. "We think the model that they've adopted is wonderful and we're really proud to support them."

Founded in 2004, the Gathering Inn has suffered the fate of many nonprofits in recent years as the economic downturn has inhibited donations. The organization offers Placer County's sole homeless shelter.

DeFosset previously told the Press Tribune that more homeless people would now be roaming streets of Roseville, where panhandling is illegal. Police Officer Dave Flood said he hasn't noticed an increase in crime as a result of the shelter closure.

"The Gathering Inn had policies that didn't allow the clients who were there to be drunk or using drugs," Flood said. "In order for homeless people to stay there, they had to follow certain criteria. I think one of the reasons we haven't seen a big influx of crime is because the homeless people who want to be drunk all the time (or) use drugs ... weren't trying to stay at the Gathering Inn in the first place."

Guests at the Gathering Inn's two intake sites in Roseville and Auburn can use showers and lockers, get clean clothes and obtain help with health care, skills training, housing and job searches. A bus transports an average of 60 guests to local churches each evening where they sleep.

Flood said the organization's day center provides a place for homeless people to stay instead of hanging out in front of businesses or houses.

Over the past few weeks, the Gathering Inn has provided showers twice weekly for the local homeless population.

Scott Thomas Anderson contributed to this report. Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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To donate to the Gathering Inn, mail checks to The Gathering Inn, P.O. Box 297, Roseville, CA 95678. For more information, call (916) 791-9355 or visit www.thegatheringinn.com.