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Right Hand Auburn is Creating a Haven for the Homeless

Aug 25, 2015 01:54PM ● By Style

When Father Michael Carroll of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Auburn opened the church hall doors for five nights last Christmas, it was just the miracle those with nowhere to go had wished for. The homeless received food, a place to sleep, a hot shower, and even watched a movie—all this, because Father Mike wanted to not only open the doors, but “our hearts” to them. 

 What happened afterward was something of a miracle in itself. The old minimum-security barracks at DeWitt Center in Auburn had become vacant. So Father Mike, along with multiple faith-based organizations and businesspeople who formed Right Hand Auburn (RHA), sought to turn the barracks into a shelter that would temporarily offer basic living amenities to the homeless. Following permission from the Placer County Board of Supervisors, RHA ran the shelter under a 90-day trial period beginning in June, for 16 hours a day, and provided two meals, showers, laundry facilities and beds for up to 47 homeless men and women every day. Within the first six weeks of operation, they served nearly 100 guests, with volunteers of America (VoA) running day-to-day operations.

Visitors supported each other with words of encouragement and did chores to keep the shelter clean. Through their conversations and appearance, you would never know they were homeless. All they’d needed was a hand. “The ‘right hand’ is a long-standing symbolic gesture—to greet a person, lift a person up, lend a person a helping hand, provide assistance or extend a hand of hope,” explains Elizabeth Sands, RHA volunteer and public relations coordinator. Leo McFarland, VoA regional director, says: “We have seen a dramatic improvement in the physical and emotional condition of our guests during their extended stay with us. The ability to bathe daily, eat regularly and sleep without fear of assault, all play into the emotional improvement of each of our guests.” 

According to Father Mike, inadequate mental health services, unavailability of affordable housing facilities for low-income groups, and the overall breakdown of family units unable to support each other during hard times are some societal factors that  need addressing. RHA strives to address these issues directly, through services that result in stabilization, housing, supportive-case management and impacting the overall nature of the individual. This is America, they assert—no one should have to live without food or shelter. 

In order to keep RHA up and running, Brigit S. Barnes, land use and real estate attorney and president of RHA, says: “We need financial contributions. We also need churches and community groups to assist with food preparation, especially dinners.” In order to raise money, RHA is having their first fund-raising dinner at The Ridge Golf Club on September 10. Their hope is to be able to expand their operations to serve many more people around the clock, and allow them to have access to shelter, education, vocational training, job placements and other aids. 

“Folks in RHA all either have, or have had someone in their family ‘on the road’ this is personal for all of us,” shares Barnes.

-Tara Mendanha

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