Mayor Luis Molina and Rich Kelly — the chairman of the homeless advocacy group Helping Others Sleep Tonight, called HOST — put golden shovels into the ground during a brief ceremony that included prayers, speeches and cheers from attendees.
Then several attendees got to work, scrubbing walls, hauling trash and moving furniture inside the 4,800-square-foot building at South Fourth and C streets that will one day provide a home for people with none.
The celebration was a culmination of years of searching for a structure large enough to help the local homeless population.
“It’s so amazing,” Kelly said as he worked inside the house. “For what we want to do, it’s such a perfect spot.”
The property has eight bedrooms, four bathrooms, a kitchen and a community room and office in the main building, as well as a separate two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment.
HOST plans to have the building, which was once Foothill Manor assisted-living facility, ready by November. Volunteers are invited to help with work on the shelter from 9 a.m. to noon the third Saturday of each month.
Kelly said the shelter originated as the vision of Patterson resident Claudia Smith, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, who was tenacious in her quest to find a place for those less fortunate.
Smith said she knew there was a homeless problem in town six years ago when she met Bradley Lehman, who was walking downtown carrying all of his worldly possessions in a baby stroller.
She said she wanted a place where Lehman, who has since died, and others like him could go when night fell.
“I researched the industrial areas in Patterson, being turned down each time with expensive safety problems,” Smith recalled. “Despite my failure to find a building, I told the St. Vincent De Paul Society that we still could feed the homeless.”
Thus the Trust in Jesus Cuisine program was born. In time, the program grew, with individuals and other volunteers from area churches and schools gathering to feed the homeless in the city’s North Park six days a week.
When Smith attended a meeting in May 2009 at the Federated Methodist-Presbyterian Church and met others who wanted to help, the HOST group was born. For three winters, HOST provided food and shelter for adults in temporary locations, serving six men or women at a time.
In April, Patterson City Council approved a 15-year, zero-interest loan of $230,000 for the group, including $150,000 to purchase the Fourth Street building, $50,000 for upgrades and $30,000 to cover unexpected costs. The group bought the property in May.
The repair and remodeling will include planting vegetable and flower gardens, Smith said.
“Patterson’s compassion and generosity has been proven,” Smith said. “God’s kindness and generosity to help the poorest of the poor is most awesome.”
Along with the sweat equity volunteers are putting into the new building, HOST will need money to operate the future shelter.
To that end, it is hosting a 24-hour fundraiser to raise money and make people aware of homelessness in town that kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday, June 22, at the Federated Church, 45 S. El Circulo.
Participating groups and church members at the event, titled “Camp Out Homelessness,” will set up a dozen campsites and be sponsored for spending the night there.
“We want to bring awareness of our organization and homelessness around town and raise money for our facility to operate,” said Robin Matteri, a HOST volunteer. “Anyone in the community can stop by.”
Organizers plan a barbecue dinner from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, costing $4 for a hot dog meal and $5 for a hamburger meal.
Though the fundraiser is closed to additional campers, members of the community can visit to see the tents and entertainment and to buy dinner and other goodies prepared by participants. The event will include music and drawings. For information; Robin Matteri, 496-0157.
• Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187, ext. 22, or firstname.lastname@example.org.