HART Holds Hopes for Homeless

Rancho Cordova, CA (MPG)  |  Story and Photo by Margaret Snider
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Inez Reyes, right, intake coordinator for the Rancho Cordova HART winter shelter, registers a guest at last year’s winter shelter. The intake site will again be at Way of Life Church on Folsom Boulevard.

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The Rancho Cordova branch of the Homeless Assistance Resource Team, or Rancho Cordova HART, this winter will hold their third winter shelter for the local homeless. The plan is for nine churches to take responsibility for one week each from Monday, December 26, through Saturday, February 25.

Six sites are ready to go, but three are still needed. “We need our Christmas miracle,” said Karen Edwards, leader of Rancho Cordova HART. Churches considering taking on a week’s sheltering should send some volunteers to the first or second host sites to see how it’s done, she said. The host sites can answer any questions, and the other churches can see how possible it is to do it themselves.

“I have great faith that we’ll fill those,” Edwards said. “But I know we have to do our due diligence, too, we have to actively pursue and recruit and do the big ask.”

The intake site is the same location as last year, Way of Life Church at 10415 Folsom Blvd., between Coloma Road and Mills Park Drive. Guests can be there at 4:30 p.m. and must be in line by 5 p.m. even if they were guests the previous evening. “The doors open at 5 p.m. and the first 30, that’s the max that we can take,” said intake coordinator Inez Reyes. After registration, the guests will be taken to the host site, where they will receive a hot dinner and be given a safe, warm place to sleep. In the morning, they will be bussed back to the intake site with a breakfast bag and some food for later in the day.

Reyes said that Pastor Mike Tempke of Way of Life Church and his volunteers deserve a lot of credit for all they do in providing the intake site and associated services. The Church of Christ provides transportation to each host site, and back each morning. All the services are provided by volunteers.

In each of the previous years, HART has learned more about how to maximize the benefit for the guests. “We have a lot more knowledge, we’re more equipped,” said Reyes.

The Folsom Cordova Unified School District supplies a liaison, and that helps to ensure that any known homeless students at least have shelter for this period, and to see what else can be done for them. “Every week, once a week, during our whole season, (Sacramento) Self Help Housing will be there, doing housing counseling, DHA will come with resources, and Elica Health will come offering medical,” Edwards said.

Rancho Cordova HART has been helping in other ways, in addition to the winter shelter. HART has partnered with the veterans stand-downs and helped at their events, and plans its own mini veterans’ stand-down for the spring. HART also has started a mentoring program, coinciding with the shelter season. “We pair up someone who will come alongside (the homeless) – not do the work for them, but help them connect the dots, to get to their resources,” Edwards said. “Sometimes the (homeless) are so overwhelmed with day-to-day existence that they don’t even know where to start.”

Edwards said that there are some chronically homeless who may always be on the street. Nevertheless, she said, “I do believe that there is a percentage of our guests that we will not see this year because they’ve gotten into housing.” Edwards estimates that 10 to 15% of last year’s guests were able to obtain housing because they were veterans. Since last year, Rancho Cordova HART has been mentoring Citrus Heights and Carmichael HART in setting up their own winter shelters, which are to be in place this season. That adds resources for people in those communities.

“It’s definitely helping people,” said Tom Beigle, coordinator for St. John Vianney Catholic Church’s host site. “It seems inadequate for what the real need is, but we have to start somewhere.”

Rancho Cordova HART recently attained its official nonprofit status, which gives it its own authority and convenience in carrying out its functions.

For more information about Rancho Cordova HART, e-mail RanchoCordovaHART@outlook.com or see www.ranchocordovahart.org/.