News

Mountain View homeless shelter opens doors

Trinity United Methodist opens cold weather sanctuary for women and children

A Cold Weather Shelter opened at Trinity United Methodist Church on Dec. 23, 2017. These beds are reserved and will be filled by referrals. Photo by Natalia Nazarova.

For women and families with children seeking sanctuary from the cold winter weather, Trinity United Methodist Church has rolled out 50 beds and laid out long aluminum pans full of hot food, transforming the church in downtown Mountain View into a seasonal homeless shelter for residents of north Santa Clara County.

The winter homeless shelter, at the corner of Hope and Mercy streets, marks the latest effort by the county to provide badly needed shelter beds during the frigid months of the year. On any given night, about 4,800 people go without shelter and end up sleeping in cars, on the streets and along the creek, according to county estimates. The shelter, which opened its doors on Saturday night, saw a handful of women trickle in over the weekend -- a slow start, but that's to be expected, according to shelter staff.

The Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos is the primary referral agency, and has already directed two dozen people to the shelter.

Efforts to open the shelter began in January, spearheaded by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and Michael Love, the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church. Although the proposal -- a homeless shelter located squarely in a single-family residential neighborhood -- seemed bound for opposition, the Old Mountain View community and the downtown businesses largely embraced the idea. The permit application glided through the city's approval process without resistance.

Bob Dolci of the county's Office of Supportive Housing faced significant opposition on two shelter proposals in Sunnyvale in recent years. He said it's possible that residents in the community already saw the church as a resource for the homeless. The nonprofit Hope's Corner has been operating out of the church since 2011, providing free meals on Saturday morning and showers throughout the week.

"I believe it was because Hope's Corner has been around so long and has done so much for the poor," Dolci said. "There was very little opposition."

It also helped that Simitian's office pulled out all the stops to inform the local community to solicit and address any concerns, Dolci said. Staff from the county housing office held several meetings, met with the business community and reached out to residents on NextDoor, even holding a community meeting in the Opal Nightclub. "The owner was great to work with," Dolci said.

Although the shelter was slated to open its doors on Nov. 27, it was delayed by nearly a month pending the installation of fire safety equipment. But the city did its part to speed things up by sending in staff to inspect the progress, said Leslie Carmichael, board president of Hope's Corner.

Even with Mountain View's new shelter, the need still outweighs the demand. There are already 70 people competing for the 50 beds, Dolci said, and the waiting list to get into the nearby Sunnyvale cold weather shelter eclipsed 300 as of Thanksgiving.

What sets Mountain View's shelter apart, however, is that it provides a space specifically for women and children who might otherwise feel uncomfortable in a typical shelter setting.

"We know they are some of the most desperate people we serve," Dolci said.

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 27, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Kudos and thanks go out to our neighbor and sister church in Mt. View, Trinity UMC, and pastor Michael Love. I'm a member of Wesley United Methodist Church here in PA. Thanks also to Supervisor Joe Simitian and coordinator Robert Dolci for the work they've done to bring this to fruition. And one more...thanks to the community of residents who live near Trinity for accepting this humanitarian focused program. And it's a program that serves probably the most vulnerable homeless people in our community.

From the pictures, it looks like a very nice and safe setting, and the beds look nice, not air mattresses on the floor.

But, I always have questions. I always do, and anybody that knows me knows that. I am curious how the Community Services Agency screens people to determine who are most in need of being referred? Also, the funding? The article didn't say anything about that. I assume the church gets some financial support for utilities, etc., and the meals and beds are a cost factor also. City, county, private donors, companies? I would be curious but won't ask, the cost per bed.

Wesley UMC participates in our local program for the homeless, called Hotel de Zink. We host 15-20 screened people for the month of February. We provide an evening meal, prepared by members of our own congregation, and also house them overnight, not in our sanctuary, but in Byrd Hall, our big hall across the courtyard from our sanctuary. It's just a little bit of support, but I know from experience, and having prepared meals for them, they are very appreciative of what we do, and many of them are willing to share stories about their life's struggles with us. Oh, but for the grace of God....


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