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Homeless at record high

Service providers struggle to keep up with rising demand
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Number of homeless served at all-time high Local aid organizations are fighting to provide quality services this holiday season as the number of people who need those services grows. Suzi de Fosset, executive director of The Gathering Inn, said the organization has seen a 20 percent increase in homeless clients since the beginning of the 2009/2010 fiscal year through the beginning of the 2010/2011 year. “A huge amount of new people are coming into the system,” de Fosset said Monday. De Fosset said The Gathering Inn also had 19,300 homeless clients staying overnight during that time, the largest amount of “bed nights” ever provided by the organization. “It’s not the holidays, it’s the weather,” she said. “When we get into colder weather, people are coming out of camp. When we have rainy, wet, cold (weather) we are full.” The group now has an emergency shelter open in Auburn along with the main location in Roseville, and the organization is at its capacity with 60 people a night, de Fosset said. “We have already had to open one emergency shelter this year when it was below freezing,” she said. “We try to make sure that everyone comes in. There are some nights we go above 60 if we have the capacity in the churches. All of last year our average ran 53 people per night. There were a lot of nights of being full. We expect to run full every single night.” The organization always needs blue jeans, socks and underwear for those it serves, de Fosset said. De Fosset said, with funding provided by Mercy Ministries, The Gathering Inn is opening a resource center in January in Roseville, and the operation will need volunteers. Salvation Army The Auburn Salvation Army is in the middle of its Red Kettle Program. In 2008 the organization collected $82,000 through the program, and that amount declined to $76,000 last year. The numbers so far are looking more positive than at this time last year, said Major Ralph Jiminez of the Auburn Salvation Army. “We are running about $3,000 ahead of last year, and that was as of Friday of this past week,” Jiminez said. Monetary donations are about the same as last year, but food donations are not coming in as strong, Jiminez said. “We are not getting a lot of food donations … at this time,” he said. “That seems to not be running quite as well this year. Any non-perishable food items are great this time of year.” While there was a 13 percent increase in food donations in the 2009/2010 fiscal year, the organization also spent $96,000 more in assistance than in the previous year, Jiminez said. The Salvation Army’s Christmas distribution days are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 22 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 23, and any families interested in applying should contact the organization as soon as possible, Jiminez said. Sharon Ferrante, seasonal program coordinator for the Auburn Salvation Army, said she feels encouraged by the community groups that have signed up to ring bells this year, but still hopes more community members will get involved. “Our individual signups have been down,” Ferrante said. “We still would love to hear from people who want to come out and bring their family, bring their pets.” Ferrante said she is overjoyed that youth groups such as the Placer High School Key Club have gotten involved with bell ringing. “I’m happy about it, and the fact that they are actually getting better donations than our normal bell ringers,” she said. Ken Tokutomi, chairman of Auburn Salvation Army’s advisory board, said he thinks bell ringing, which runs in two-hour shifts every day except Sundays through Dec. 24, creates a bond between community members and the organization. “It creates community spirit between Salvation Army and volunteers,” Tokutomi said. “It gives volunteers an opportunity to invest in their community.” Food closet needs community donations with more families in crisis Barbara Tellman, spokeswoman for the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet, said the organization is down on its donations, but gifts from a few groups are keeping it afloat. “We are down, but we had a big donation from St. Teresa’s … just last week of about $9,000. Otherwise we have been losing money on a regular basis and had to go into our savings,” Tellman said. “We are a little down, but we are holding our own because of those donations.” The food closet is serving 70 more families this year than last year, Tellman said. “This year our monthly average is 963 (families) as of the end of November,” she said. “Last year it was 893. In 2008 it was 789. (This year’s number) is actually an increase of seven percent over the previous year.” Tellman said the food closet had a successful Stuff-a-Bus event, but is encouraging community members to donate frozen hams, turkeys and other holiday foods. The organization is getting ready for its Sponsor-a-Family program, and community members can get involved by donating $15 or $25 a month. More information is available on the food closet’s website. The food closet appreciates the help the community continues to offer, Tellman said. “The people of Auburn have come forward every year to support the program, and we thank them for that,” she said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Contacting local aid organizations The Gathering Inn: 201 Berkeley Ave., Roseville Website: thegatheringinn.com Call: (916) 791-9355 Salvation Army: 286 Sutter St., Auburn To become a bell ringer: Call (530) 889-3990, ext. 22 Auburn Interfaith Food Closet: 2985 Richardson Drive, Auburn Website: auburnfoodcloset.com Call: (530) 885-1921