Helping the homeless

New center provides ‘gateway’ to turn life around
By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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There is another option for the homeless in Western Placer County thanks to a new center in Roseville that is helping people get their lives back on track. The Gateway Community Resource Center is helping people in many ways that some didn’t even know were possible, according to executive director Suzi DeFosset, and will have its grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony today. Since its preliminary opening in January, the center has seen more than 900 people come through its doors, DeFosset said, providing computers, telephones, food, shelter, entertainment and social services for the homeless. “Anybody in the community can come in and use the computer, figure out what their next big step is going to be and have a place to be more than anything else,” DeFosset said. “Because if they’re not here with us, then they are in the parks.” Josh Vickland, 36, said he recently became homeless after losing his job due to an injury he sustained at work and was denied workman’s comp insurance. “Until I can afford to hire an attorney to sort it all out, I’m here,” Vickland said. “Once you get into this situation, it’s really hard to get out.” He said he stays at the shelter and uses the Gateway Center to look for work and that he’s thankful to have so many resources at his fingertips. So far it’s working, he said, since he’s been able to line up a couple job interviews. “I hate to see good people labeled as if they don’t want to change their lives,” Vickland said. “In tough economic times, a town is going to see more homeless, that’s just a fact. Some people don’t realize that this is impacting everybody across the United States.” The Gateway Center is located at the Gathering Inn, a center in Roseville that has provided a safe place for the homeless to store their belongings, social services and transportation to a local church for food and a place to sleep for the past seven years. After receiving a grant from the Mercy Foundation, the Gateway Center is birthed out of the fact that last year, 71 percent of the homeless population in Placer County had not previously used homeless services, DeFosset said. “We have a huge number of people that don’t know how to be homeless,” she said. “There are an immense amount of services available here in Roseville that people aren’t aware of. When you don’t know what’s available to you, it’s hard to move forward.” DeFosset said that she has witnessed the population of the homelessness in Placer County increase by about 20 percent every year over the last seven years and that in this day and age, just about anybody can become homeless. “With this economy and everybody scrambling to make sure their ends meet, the homeless are people that have had very little luck or just made bad choices,” she said. “They didn’t choose to be this way and given an opportunity, they’re going to move forward.” Homzie Johnson, 43, has been staying at the shelter for six months and, since the opening of the Gateway Center, has been able to work on a job resume and receive his Social Security benefits. “It’s a great center, a lot of really helpful people here,” Johnson said. Michael Banagham, 51, said that without the shelter, he would just be hanging out in the park up the street. “This place is great to have,” Banagham said. “Out there in the rain, it’s horrible. There’s no shelter up there to hide.” Kym Lawrence, who worked with homeless teenagers at Loaves and Fishes before becoming the resource manager of the Gateway Center, said she is thankful there is a safe place for the homeless to go. “They didn’t have a choice before,” Lawrence said. “Now there’s no excuse, there’s nothing holding them back from moving forward.” Toby Lewis can be reached at