A New Chapter: An Update on Redding's First Micro Shelter Community
Redding's historic step toward providing safe, transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness has proven to be exceptionally successful. The South Market Micro Shelter Community, run by United Way of Northern California and Pathways to Housing, funded by the City of Redding, opened its doors in March.
(Though Shasta Thrive is not a part of this project, we strongly believe in the concept of Micro Shelter Communities (MSCs) as a highly effective transitional housing solution. We love and support our community partners and look forward to seeing more MSCs in the future!)
Watch this inspiring video to get an inside look at this thriving community & hear from the residents:
Those of us who have had boots on the ground in understanding the complexities of homelessness in Redding can agree on one prime thing: there is a critical gap in the availability of transitional housing.
"I got involved with this project as a crazy idea I had a couple years ago when I saw too many people under the bridge unsheltered, too many people unsheltered because of fires, and we needed to do more. We can do better," says Laural Park, a spearhead of the MSC movement in Redding.
As we build relationships with those still living outdoors, we always hold one thing in mind: is this person ready for a "hand up?" Is there a willingness and a drive to to grab hold of the hands that guide and uplift, no matter how hard it may feel? It is among this pool of individuals that the residents of the South Market Micro Shelter Community were selected for a 10 month program that aids them in achieving permanent housing. While housing is the end goal, residents will also learn to do life together and begin to heal from their various traumas of a previous life lived outdoors and in survival mode. Only when a person feels safe, has shelter & begins to reintroduce the normalcy of consistent routines, can they begin to dream about the future and heal from their past.
Healing and camaraderie mark this community. When you take a group of individuals who are all coming out of homelessness and now share the common goal of bettering their lives, the bonds between them form deeply. They share a sense of gratitude in being given a second chance. They share the stories that shaped them and scarred them. They share about their children. They share their goals over a shared meal. They share their understanding and compassion for each other. They share an empowered, collective voice.
The most important goal at the South Market Micro Shelter Community is that the residents feel empowered and have a say in forming the community that they want to be a part of.
"Every week, the residents come together for a resident meeting and they talk about what's working and what's not working, and we're able to quickly implement those things. It really makes the residents feel like they have a voice," says Cherish Padro, Project Supervisor.
Twice weekly, laundry and showers are provided by Haven of Hope on Wheels. This essential service provides residents with what most of us easily take for granted but is so difficult to obtain on the streets. When you are experiencing homelessness, it can be months before your next shower. A trip to the laundromat is physically exhausting, expensive & can take all day.
"Everybody needs a hand up. We can feel down, but we can't stay down. When somebody is down there, they need someone to reach out and just give them a little tug so they can stand up & not feel like nobody loves them," remarks Earl Lewis of Haven of Hope on Wheels as he reflects on why he shows up to serve the marginalized and provide these essential services.
"It was very scary for me the first time-- to go into a truck and take a shower and to give my clothes to someone who I don't know & am I really going to get them back? Is it really safe? And it really is," says Gail, a resident at the Micro Shelter Community.
Among the other services provided at this site are life skill classes, voter registration, gardening days and a case manager to uniquely guide each resident through the next steps in their personal journeys toward housing and reintegration.
"Being here it gives me the chance to see people and let them be seen as what they are: just human beings. I understand, I've been there too. I know trauma. I know what's it like to live in the streets and have to deal with the hardships. I know what it's like to not know when the next meal is coming," says Rudy Lucero, Case Manager, as he shares how he approaches his relationship with each resident.
Residents like Zachary share a common story of growing up homeless with Rudy. When this is your only example of what it means to exist in this world, the odds are stacked against you. But it's this level of understanding that makes Rudy great at what he does and gives him the ability to guide residents through the traumas of the past and into the hope of the future. If he did it, so can they.
"Making it into this community has been the step-up I've really need up until now. I've had a job for a couple months now, but this is really the next step to getting out of homelessness instead of just being homeless with money," says Zachary, a resident at the South Market MSC, breaking down the common notion of why it's not as simple as the homeless just 'getting a job.'
CJ, another resident at the South Market MSC, moved to Redding for a job. Eight days after her new position began, the Carr Fire broke out and she had to relocate to a new living situation. Quickly after she moved there, the building had a water leak and her home & office space flooded and she suddenly found herself without a home and living at the Good News Rescue Mission.
"I don't have any sort of addictions or problems like that. It just goes to show that your life can blow up in a minute and anybody could be suddenly at the Mission. It was hard being at the bottom, but I just looked at is as, [God] is just breaking me down to build me up and this is my spring board to be back on track to something greater," says CJ.
CJ is now employed again and able to walk to her job from the MSC site. She's now freed up to save money and work toward her goal of "staying in Redding for as long as possible and becoming a contributing member of society."
The residents brought this sense of hope and purpose as they hit the surrounding streets of Redding for a Community Clean Up Day. They picked up over 100 pounds of trash, nestled in bushes and piled along pathways, filling up bags with remnants of what once surrounded them on the streets. The residents decided together to voluntarily clean up their neighborhood and want to continue to give back to Redding.
Because of the success of this site, the City and community are much more supportive of new sites in the future. Construction will begin soon at the second site at St. James Lutheran Church, Goodwater Crossing and next up will be behind the Good News Rescue Mission.
We look forward to the day when all of our brothers and sisters on the streets have the option of safety and stability. We salute this amazing team for taking steps in the right direction!