Homelessness is prevalent in the Bay Area and a social issue that needs attention.
The T.H.E. House, a nonprofit organization that has been in the Bay Area for over 35 years, is working to help eradicate homelessness in Coos Bay. Robin Pace, the director of T.H.E. House for almost two years, said local efforts help keep their establishment going. United Way also assists in their operating fund of around $100,000 per year.
“We make all our money through grants and private donations. People donate money, food, clothing and most of our operating budget comes from United Way,” Pace said. “We get a lot of community support.”
According to Pace, there are set rules for when homeless people come knocking. Pace said the reasoning for this is so everybody has a chance to stay the night. They always have a total of ten men and nine women. Additionally, the people who stay there must leave every morning at 8 a.m. and can come back no earlier than 5 p.m. every day because they are supposed to be out looking for jobs.
“We get 19 total, and we serve meals for everyone in the community for over 18,” Pace said. “They get a five-day stay, and then they have to be out for seven, and then they can come back again.”
Homelessness is not limited to just adults in the community, but youth are also confronted with it.
Sophomore Misha* said she has been kicked out of her own home before. Luckily, she said, she did not have to consider trying to find shelter because she had friends living nearby.
“I went over to a friend’s house, and I was there for a while,” Misha said. “I eventually got things figured out with my parents.”
For adults, shelter is limited locally.
Pace said everyone who stays at T.H.E. House must check in with an ID or be police verified. The organization remains an alcohol and drug free facility, and if a person is suspected of having either they must leave. If a resident is violent, then they must leave as well. She also said it is hard for some of the people they house to find a place to live or work because of their history with the law, and they do house sexual offenders. However, according to Pace, one cannot immediately assume a homeless person’s background because they do not know what led them to their recent state of affairs.
“It’s hard to get housing. It’s hard to get a job when you have a criminal background,” Pace said. “Unless you know their background, you don’t know what happened.”
According to Misha, homelessness is a prevailing issue in the community that should be taken seriously by adults and youth alike.
“I feel that’s a really big issue,” Misha said. “People really shouldn’t take it lightly because everyone struggles, and there is definitely a lot going on in people’s home lives all the time.”
Because shelters like T.H.E. House house sex offenders, Misha said she would like to see some sort of shelter pertaining to teenagers who need help.
“I definitely think there should be one here because everyone, even if it’s not their own home, still needs somewhere where they feel accepted and belonged,” Misha said.
Misha said people should work together to help the issue. People can do this by donating items, such as clothing, sleeping bags, socks and travel sized personal hygiene products, such as shampoo and conditioner. They can also volunteer.
According to Pace, T.H.E. House and other similar organizations in the Bay Area work together. Their facility also consists of a paid staff, as well as volunteers. During the holidays, KFC donates 25 meals to them for Christmas. Pace said she also cooks a more traditional Christmas dinner for the residents, including turkey and mashed potatoes, etc.
“I do all the cooking. I do it all, and sometimes I need a break,” Pace said. “I cook a big dinner before that [the KFC meals].”
She said it is great to see people find work or a place to live.
“Washing dishes is an honorable job,” Pace said. “It’s really rewarding when you see someone get housing, get a job. We’re their best cheerleaders.”
Pace said she has encountered homeless people who would rather camp outside than stay in a shelter. They just come for meals, and that is how they like it. She said this usually stems from them having so many doors slammed in their face.
Pace said the number one thing she tells her staff is to be kind and encourage people.
“All anybody needs is a little kindness in the world, and we try to do that here,” Pace said.
Misha said she thinks nobody should have to live out on the streets.
“I just feel that everyone deserves a loving home,” Misha said.
According to Pace, she would like to see some of the local establishments that have been shut down used for housing, but it would take local support for that to become a reality.
“I’ve often thought if some of these schools they’ve closed down to section them off for housing, but then it all comes down to helping. I think that would be a really great thing, and I’d love to see that happen,” Pace said. “It’s going to take the whole community to want something like that to happen.”
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