Tight times at Torres
Homeless shelter scrambles after losing $200,000 grant
The Torres Community Homeless Shelter needs your help.
It’s lost 40 percent of its operating budget this year, due to the loss of a federal grant it received for the past two years. Shelter leaders are scrambling this holiday season to maintain funding in order to serve the hundreds in need who come to Butte County’s only year-round emergency shelter for men, women and children.
The grant was worth $200,000 annually and was for emergency and transitional shelters in California, said Patrick Conklin, secretary of the Chico Community Shelter Partnership, which runs the shelter. In this year of economic turmoil, there was more than $16 million in requests, but only $6 million was awarded.
The timing couldn’t be worse. With winter arriving and a depression on the horizon, the shelter has already seen an influx of families needing a place to stay, shelter coordinator Becky Rivera said last Saturday (Dec. 6) at the shelter’s sixth-annual Christmas Tree Auction and Holiday Festival, held at the Chico Family Masonic Center.
Shelter employees have cut back on their hours in order to save about $2,000 a month, but they worry about how they’ll serve their clients if the number rises to winter averages of about 70 to 80 people a night. As of press time 40 to 50 people, including one family, were staying at the shelter. The current low numbers are attributed to the lack of rain. A storm is expected later this week.
Exact figures for the auction aren’t available yet, but five decorated Christmas trees sold for a total of $2,850, and more than 150 other items sold in a silent auction. The estimated profits will be close to, if not higher than, last year’s $30,000. The tree Councilman Andy Holcombe bought for $900 and donated to Youth for Change can be seen at its Sixth Street drop-in center.
Though $30,000 sounds like a lot of money, operating expenses for the shelter total $25,000 a month.
Thinking past January, the CCSP is getting innovative. When Chairwoman Sheryl McWatters spoke Saturday night, she unveiled a “People Helping People” campaign that strives to build a team of 2,500 people to donate $10 a month in order to sustain long-term operating costs.
On top of that, CCSP has launched the $125,000 “Shelter Our Neighbors” campaign, thanks to an anonymous donor’s $50,000 challenge made through the North Valley Community Foundation. “He, and all I can say is he,” McWatters opened, has pledged to match the shelter’s first $50,000 raised with a $25,000 donation. After that, the next $25,000 raised by the shelter will be matched with another $25,000 from the same man.
“I love the work I do at the Torres Shelter,” Rivera said before reading a Christmas card from a parolee who had used the shelter to transition from 20 years in prison back into society. He now has a job, a house and the prospect of a healthy future. He credits the Torres Shelter for giving him a second chance at life.