The struggles of ‘invisible neighbors’
Homelessness in Madera: Part 5
Editor’s Note: Razi Sayed, a participant in Dr. Gary Rice’s journalism scholars program at Fresno State University, spent several weeks studying homelessness in Madera. He became intimately acquainted with the problems faced by the homeless and those who try to help them. This series of eight stories will run through June.
In October 2011, Mary Gullett found herself being dropped off by a friend at the Madera Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter in downtown Madera. Gullett, who now works part-time at the rescue mission, had been fired from her job as the head housekeeper at a hotel for drinking on the job in 2010. Over the next year and several months, her drinking had gotten worse and she was evicted by her landlord. The day after being evicted, she was brought to the rescue mission.
The Madera Rescue Mission began as a soup kitchen in January 1987. “Then it involved into becoming a homeless shelter, initially for men,” said Mike Unger, who has served as executive director of the shelter since August 2013. “It’s since evolved even further to include women and children.”
At any given moment, the shelter may have anywhere from 80 to 120 overnight guests. The highest population times at any given month are the last two weeks, Unger said. The first two weeks those receiving funding will often stay at a motel until money runs out.
“Within the rescue mission format, we are a faith-based organization — a Christ-centered organization,” Unger said. “We never turn any other faiths away — it’s not in our DNA to do that. Every night, we hope that by being here, we have the opportunity to impress upon them the importance of receiving what Christians consider salvation.” ....