Idea to use farm-labor housing to help homeless families comes to fruition at city’s Pomona Ranch
Charles Doud/The Madera Tribune
A mother of three, who identified herself as “Chante,” exclaims with joy as she sees donated food stocked in her refrigerator. Below, she stands with city councilman Charles Rigby in the doorway of her new home at Pomona Ranch.
A mother of three children, who identified herself as “Chante,” would have been sleeping on the street with her family by now. But a newly developed program of the Madera Housing Authority to help homeless families came to her rescue.
She and her family were chosen as among the first residents of the Pomona Ranch homeless family shelter program to move into their new homes on Friday.
Pomona Ranch, a Housing Authority-owned motel-like residential complex for farm laborers, has been spruced up to house homeless families for the winter.
Normally, the Pomona Ranch buildings would be closed for the winter once the harvest was over.
Chante, her children and her fiance had been living at the Madera Rescue Mission the past few weeks, but had stayed beyond the month the mission allows. They had been unable to find other housing.
Before going to the mission, she said, the family had been living in a car in which they kept all their possessions. But that car was stolen. They were left with nowhere to stay, with hardly more than the clothes on their backs.
“We had lost our home,” she said, “because we had lost our income.”
Being able to live at Pomona Ranch, even if only for six months, comes as a great relief, she said.
“We won’t be homeless for the winter.”
She said she and her family definitely were not among those homeless people who want to be homeless.
She said the idea of being without a home frightened her.
She said that while she very much appreciated living at the mission, she had found it hard to look for a job while living there. She said she is actively seeking work now that she knows she will have a permanent address.
She said her fiance has found work with a solar-panel installer. The couple hopes they will have steady jobs once they have to leave the Pomona Ranch home they now occupy. That will be in May.
Pomona Ranch is located adjacent to farm properties near the confluence of Avenue 12 and Road 29. The 25-living-unit complex includes parking places and a nursery school.
Until now, the Pomona Ranch homes were closed for the winter.
But last year, Madera Housing Authority Executive Director Linda Shaw came up with the idea of using the Pomona Ranch residences as places for homeless families to live in wintertime. She looked for grant money to operate the Pomona Ranch homes during the winter, while City Council Members Charles Rigby and William Oliver worked to round up local collaboration.
Rigby and Oliver, along with the rest of the City Council, also serve as members of the Housing Authority board. Rigby was chair of the board this year.
They got in contact with the mission, with Hope House, the Madera Food Bank, the Madera Police Association, Camarena Health Center, the Community Action Partnership of Madera County and Grocery Outlet.
Hope House will administer Pomona Ranch in cooperation with the Housing Authority.
Hope House works with Madera County Behavioral Health Services to provide help for those who sometimes have a difficult time coping with the stresses of life.
Chante glowed with happiness as she watched her children enjoying the prospects of life in a household again.
They ran their little hands over the covers on their beds, they looked up at the clothes closets they would be using once they were able to get some clothes. They looked over the bathroom, the kitchen, the living-and-dining room, and sighed as their mom opened the door of the refrigerator to display the food that had been stocked in there.
“Look,” said one, patting a package in the refrigerator with his hands. “Eggs! Milk! Wow!”
A new toaster gleamed on a kitchen counter. New dinnerware lay in an unopened package in one drawer. Plates, cups and saucers were on shelves when cupboard doors were opened.
Eight families had been scheduled to move into Pomona on Friday. Volunteers and agency employees scurried from living unit to living unit, carrying donated items.
As many as a dozen families may move into Pomona Ranch for the winter, Linda Shaw said.