Merced County Times Newspaper
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Times Photos by Yanira Ledezma

Village of Hope opens in Merced

 

The Village of Hope, a transitional housing program for unhoused families, Veterans, and individuals experiencing homelessness after being discharged from a hospital, is gearing up for its official grand opening in Merced, this Friday, April 22.

The event will begin at 10 a.m., with a ribbon cutting at its location, 129 W. Cone Avenue, between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and G Street in south Merced. Tours of the village will follow the ceremony.

“I am so excited to invite everybody to our new campus,” said Dr. Bruce Metcalf, executive director of the Merced County Rescue Mission. “This will be a celebration of years of vision-casting, hard work, and planning which has culminated in realizing a place where people who have experienced homelessness are receiving hope and care in a loving environment.”

The housing village is a part of the Rescue Mission, a local organization with a mission to serve the unhoused population in Merced County by helping, feeding, and housing them through several different programs and opportunities.

Village of Hope has actually been open for three weeks. And in this time, all 10 Veteran housing units have been occupied. All apartments in the family building are full, and 20 occupants have filled spaces in the villages “Hope Respite Care” that treats discharged hospital patients facing homelessness.

As you drive into the campus, the first building off to your left is the newest “Hope for Families” facility that houses 10, one-bedroom apartments for homeless families with young children.

“These program houses are designed to provide homeless families with a safe, supportive living environment while offering the opportunity to build a base for future independence,” Metcalf said.

The Rescue Mission works alongside the Human Services Agency identifying families that are homeless and need a safe, structured environment. Families housed in Hope for Families are staying on a transitional basis and are welcomed to stay up to 2 years.

“They may be there a week, a month, depends on if we can find them housing,” said Metcalf.

Right past the Hope for Families is the “Hope for Veterans.” This program provides permanent housing for selected veterans and promotes a safe and supportive living environment where these individuals can build their independence.

Lawrence Wagner, a Vietnam War Navy veteran, is just one of the veterans utilizing the Hope for Veterans program.

“I like it here,” Wagner said about his one bedroom apartment. “I can cook for myself here.”

The apartment includes a full kitchen, washer and dryer, bathroom, living room space, and storage. Veterans are encouraged to make the place their own and to make their own choices.

Wagner, originally from Chicago, moved to California and settled in Firebaugh, and then moved to Merced after his wife’s passing. He was temporary living in a hotel up until Veteran Affairs and Merced Rescue Mission helped him secure housing inside the new Village of Hope.

“They are welcome to stay here as long as they would like,” Metcalf explained. “They can stay for the rest of their lives even.”

Unhoused individuals who are housed inside the Hope Respite Care receive treatment and care while they recover. These individuals were either discharged from the hospital or are suffering from complex health and social issues and are subsequently facing homelessness.

“Hope Respite Care is an innovative collaboration between Merced Rescue Mission, Mercy Medical Center, Merced, Stutter Hospital in Los Banos, Golden Valley Health Centers, and Stanislaus State University,” Metcalf said. “Hope Respite Care seeks to improve patient outcomes and reduce the costs of their care, using data driven, person-centered practices.”

David Flores and Robert Montanez are just two of the 20 individuals residing inside Hope Respite Care. Both have seen a great improvement in their lives since they joined the village just three weeks ago.

“I was homeless on the streets for 16 years,” Flores explained. “I’ve been beat up and left for dead. … but I am still here. Living here we are all from the same walks of life. We help each other out here. I’m in the right spot.”

Flores and Montanez are roommates. They are both wheelchair bound and happy to be living in better conditions than they were before.

Montanez had his right leg amputated two years ago after a bad infection. Since then he had been in and out of the hospital, continually needing treatment because of a weak immune system.

“I couldn’t handle the streets,” Montanez explained. “I would have died if I was in the streets.”

“Sobering Rooms,” are also located inside the Hope Respite Care and have been created in conjunction with the Merced County Behavioral Health Department, Mercy Hospital, and Golden Valley Health Centers. The rooms are divided up between men and women.

“These rooms will have mattresses for individuals who need to sleep the night off,” Metcalf said. “The sheriff’s deputies and police will bring people in, instead of having to book people into jail, or taking them to the hospital, they can bring them here and there will be people on duty all the time.”

Village for Hope’s mission is to offer pathways to healing, hosing, jobs, and real life change. They offer three meals a day to all of its residents, availability to lounge rooms, and even have a clinic run by Golden Valley Health Centers.

Once a week, nursing students in the RN program also come onto campus as part of their community nursing program, meet with individuals in the facilities housing programs, and regroup at the end of the day to discuss their findings.

The work done at Merced County Rescue Mission is reshaping the way the unhoused community in Merced County is treated and rehabilitated. With Village of Hope, veterans, families, and those affected by complex health and social issues now have a chance at a better life-and one that can accommodate to the treatment that they need.

 

For more information on Merced Rescue Mission and their message, you can reach out to them at (209) 354-0559 or visit their website at www.mercedcountyrescuemission.org.

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