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Acres of Hope shelters, nurtures

By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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If Acres of Hope shelter for women and children did not exist, one single mother resident knows where she would be. “If I weren’t here, I would probably be homeless,” Lindsay Porta said Thursday. Porta was born in Auburn and grew up in Loomis. She said she was addicted to amphetamines. She has been at the shelter four months and has a son Liam, 2, and daughter Kaylin, 4, who rely on her to stay healthy. “This program has been a saving grace,” Porta said. Her daughter Kaylin receives preschool training and Liam gets attention in the nursery program. Porta is one of 10 single mothers and 17 children on site. Tina England, who has more than 25 years of preschool experience, teaches children the basics such as the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes and manners, too. England gets help from two aides. If the children reach first-grade age while staying at Acres of Hope, they will attend Sierra Hills Elementary School in Meadow Vista. Currently, there are 20 children in the preschool program. “I concentrate on getting them ready for school,” England said. The shelter has proven to be a safe haven that provides long-term housing for women and their children with the goal of ending the cycle of homelessness in their lives. Darrell Sarmento, who heads up community relations and development, said that many residents have been in and out of various programs multiple times. “They need more than just a helping hand,” Sarmento said. For that reason, Acres of Hope seeks volunteer mentors who can make a long-term commitment to give guidance and support to the mothers. The organization receives financial and volunteer support from 20 churches in Placer County. However, they are not seeking to make any converts. “It’s very much a Christian curriculum, but it’s very interdenominational,” Sarmento said. “We want them to leave here feeling comfortable and know there are a lot of churches who would welcome them with open arms.” Julianne Christ, 40, has been at the shelter 10 months with her 11-month-old baby Jackson. “I was facing homelessness after my father got ill and had to sell our house,” Christ said. But homelessness was not the only dilemma facing Christ. “I was involved with drugs and alcohol for 25 years,” she said. On Thursday the attractive, dark-haired mother was feeding Jackson in a highchair and any visitor would not recognize her troubled past. “The program has provided a whole new way of life and security,” Christ said. “It’s kept me sober and helped me develop healthy relationships.” England, a certified California Drug and Alcohol Counselor, is available for counseling. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 92 percent of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical or sexual assault in their lifetime. Some 63 percent of homeless mothers have been violently abused by an intimate male partner and 27 percent required medical treatment. Thirty-six percent have experienced posttraumatic stress disorder. Homeless children suffer from emotional or behavioral problems that interfere with their learning, nearly three times the rate of other children. Nearly 25 percent of homeless children have witnessed acts of violence, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness. There are no teens at Acres of Hope. All children are 12 and under. Residents are accepted on a referral basis only and must fill out an application on the Web site, acresofhopeonline.org. Program Director Christine Ourada said that they have enough volunteers for the holidays but they’re looking for mentors. They also need volunteers who can make repairs at the shelter. “We prefer that our volunteers make a long-term commitment,” Ourada said. ------------------------- How To Volunteer Call (530) 878-8030 How To Donate Visit Web: acresofhopeonline.org Donation Coin Boxes in Auburn: Max’s Deli & Catering, Awful Annie’s, Depoe Bay Coffee Company, Old Town Pizza, Sunrise Natural Foods and Warehouse Paints.