Fifteen individuals stayed at the new Homeless Opportunities Meals and Empowerment (HOME) Resource Center during its grand opening last Friday.
The new homeless shelter, located at 1161 San Felipe Road, opened its doors on December 1 to 15 guests Friday, 12 guests Saturday and 15 guests on Sunday.
“Last year, we had one guest on the first night,” said Enrique Arreola, county deputy director of community service and workforce development. “Overall, the first weekend went very smooth.”
Reyes Bonilla, executive director of Community Homeless Solutions, which operates the shelter, said the facility is below capacity now, as clients tend to use any monetary support they receive to pay for a hotel room or other low-cost, private accommodation, but expects to see more clients as the month progresses.
“As it gets colder and the word gets out, we will see those beds filled,” he said.
The HOME Resource Center supplements the temporary Winter Warming Shelter at the Migrant Center on Southside Road in Hollister, but the new homeless shelter only accepts individuals. Homeless families can still stay at the Family Winter Shelter at the Migrant Center.
San Benito County has operated the Family Winter Shelter for more than 30 years.
“We serve up to 30 homeless families during the winter months from December to March,” Arreola said. “This program charges families up to $300 per month along with a $300 security deposit. At the conclusion of the program, both the security deposit and monthly payments are returned with the goal that it be used for permanent housing once the program is over. Last year we served 35 homeless families. This year we anticipate serving 25-30 families.”
The total cost to operate and maintain the year-round HOME Resource Center is estimated at $615,710 annually.
The new homeless shelter has 50 beds, 28 for male individuals and 22 for female individuals. Staff offer clients a ride to the shelter at 4:30pm from Third Street across from Bank of America, Dunne Park, My Father’s House and Strawhat Pizza. Morning drop-offs from the shelter begin at 7:30am at the same locations, except for My Father’s House.
“It was very pleasing to be there and look at the client’s faces when they walked in,” Arreola said of the opening weekend. “It’s going to serve a big void. I think it’s not the solution to solve homelessness, but it’s certainly a service that will help many individuals annually.”
The sleeping area was constructed during Phase One alongside the bathrooms, an office, lobby and dining space.
Phase Two, expected to be done by next summer, will add training, services, and a kitchen.
Phase Three could add eight to 10 units of transitional housing.
“We contracted with Community Homeless Solutions, the nonprofit operating the center,” Arreola said. “They’re providing food. They’re taking care of that through purchasing them through local vendors and different restaurants. Then we get billed and they pay it. A kitchen is part of Phase Two, at the moment we don’t have one. When we do have that we’ll have more capacity to do more meals and things like that.”
Reyes said food offerings include a hot dinner, breakfast and a sandwich for lunch.
An additional Phase Three could add eight to ten units of transitional housing.
“Things are falling into place,” Arreola said. “It’s incredible looking at what we’ve accomplished in such a period of time. We did a lot in four years.”