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Homeless find refuge via Gathering Inn

By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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The lost and forgotten homeless with no means to pay for shelter come to The Gathering Inn in Roseville. They include women with children, veterans, and individuals from all walks of life. “Many people believe the homeless are all drug addicts or mentally ill, they brought homelessness on themselves,” said Suzi deFosset, executive director of The Gathering Inn. “These are misconceptions which facts do not support. A large number of the people The Gathering Inn supports are Vietnam veterans. Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless.” There are homeless right here in Auburn. Every evening around 4:30, a Gathering Inn van visits a pickup site near the DeWitt Center and transports at least nine homeless people to an area church where they get a shower, meal and spend the night. The Gathering Inn has been in operation for four years, but in the past the non-profit organization closed during the summer months. With the current unemployment rate jumping to 7.3 percent in the Sacramento Valley area and mortgage foreclosures putting some former owners and renters on the streets, the number of homeless individuals and families continues to increase. As executive director, deFosset wants to continue bridging the gap for those seeking meals and shelter and kept The Gathering Inn open in summer for the first time this year. The Gathering Inn gets two-thirds of its funding from private donations and fundraising events such as the 2008 Gold Country Volleyball Classic tournament held Saturday at Auburn’s Regional Park. The remaining funding comes from grants, which have lessened due to the economic slowdown. “Right now, we’re in a funding crunch due to donations and grants being down,” deFosset said. “We’re working very hard to get funding for the next couple of months. If we don’t get that funding, we will probably close for the next couple of months. But we will reopen.” What does that mean? It means that Herbert Smith, 47, and his daughter Shyanne, 2, will be looking for some place else to stay besides the Gathering Inn. Smith and Shyanne have been staying at the Gathering Inn for the past three weeks. The former construction worker, who grew up in Placer County, could no longer work after he fractured his right leg in six places when he stepped into a hole at a construction site about 17 weeks ago. “I couldn’t get disability or unemployment,” Smith said. “I’m still waiting for benefits.” When Smith split up with his girlfriend, it became too much for him to bear. “When I lost my family, I lost it and took a bunch of pills” he said. “My girlfriend was out there but decided she didn’t want her daughter. Shyanne’s been my light at the end of the tunnel.” Another visitor at The Gathering Inn is Charles Michael, 59. Originally from North Carolina, Michael was a commercial painter for 45 years, but after an accident injured his right rotator cuff, he said he went on permanent disability. “I’ve been in five or six shelters over the years and this is the best one I’ve been in,” Michael said. “They have their general rules to keep everything operational.” Michael has been frequenting The Gathering Inn for nearly five months. He came to California the hard way. He rode a bike from Tampa, Fla. to central Texas, where he later boarded a bus for California. What was his motivation for moving to California? “I thought I’d try my hand at panning gold, but that’s never happened,” Michael said. Another person who depends on the inn for a meal and shelter is Shelunda Mostella, 40, from Dallas, Texas. She came to Roseville alone last year on a Greyhound bus, after things went sour with her family. “I got a job with Kohl’s department store in Folsom,” Mostella said. “I worked there for one month. It was seasonal work just for the holidays.” A nurse’s aid in Dallas for 20 years, Mostella said she wanted to come here, get a job and go to school to become an LVN. “Then, I wanted to go back home and get my two sons and daughter,” she said. So far, Mostella has visited six different churches about 13 times. The Gathering Inn has 30 hosting churches and 15 more that support in other ways, said Shirley Saunders, administrative assistant with the inn. Some of the Auburn churches hosting visitors in need of shelter on a rotating basis are Bayside of Auburn, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Bridgeway, Cornerstone Community Church, First Congregational Church, Sierra Foothills Unitarian, Sierra Grace Fellowship, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Parkside Church of the Nazarene. There are at least 11 Roseville churches providing meals, shelter or support, along with churches in Loomis, Rocklin and Granite Bay, to name just some of the communities. The Journal’s Bruce Warren can be reached at brucew@goldcountrymedia.com, or leave a comment.