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Non-profit hoping for way to save its program

Acres of Hope facing real possibility of closure
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A local program that helps drug-abused women get back on their feet could close. Officials at Acres of Hope, based in Applegate, said their tight budget forced them to lay off almost the entire staff last week. Now, what used to be a month-to-month struggle to exist has turned into a day-by-day possibility that they may have to shut their doors. “We have so many people who say, ‘No, you can’t close,’ but we also have to pay bills,” said Executive Director Regina Sarmento. “Every day is one day at a time.” Acres of Hope was founded by Regina and Darrell Sarmento almost three years ago. It is a faith-based long-term housing program for homeless women and children. The nonprofit program, which currently houses about nine families, is unique because it is one of the few long-term housing facilities in the area. It allows women and their children to stay in a secure place. During that time, the women are taking a variety of classes ranging from how to be a better parent to job skills. Sarmento said they are waiting to find out whether they received a grant to pay their lease, which they are a few months behind on payments. She said salaries and utilities are paid for through donations, but they haven’t been able to pay any of the nine staff members they laid off. “They’ve all been very gracious with us and know our situation,” Sarmento said. “They all are very much behind the families. Their hearts are here even though they’re not.” Sarmento said fortunately, one of the positions has been temporarily reinstated. When one donor got news of the layoffs, it spurred them to pay for one of their child-care provider’s salary for the next three months. Word that the program may no longer exist worries resident Christina Owen. Owen and her two children have lived at Acres of Hope Applegate center for nine months. Prior to finding a place there, Owen said she was “running from CPS (Child Protective Services),” which eventually did take her children away because she didn’t have a place to stay. “I was homeless, living on the streets with nowhere to go,” Owen said. Owen was eventually referred to Acres of Hope and was able to regain custody of her children. She said she has truly enjoyed taking classes and learning better parenting and life skills. “Acres is an awesome place, and I’ve never thought about leaving,” Owen said. Sarmento said the program welcomes any volunteer to help cover the loss of more than half of its staff. Donations, either supplies or financial, are also welcome. She said the program appreciates the continued help from supporters. “Our women are so grateful for that chance to get their lives turned around,” Sarmento said. “We want them to hang in there with us.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.