SAN MATEO (KCBS) – Dozens of homeless families have been forced to bide their time on a waiting list at a peninsula shelter that’s seen unprecedented demand for services because of layoffs and foreclosures.
The Shelter Network now gets some 1,500 calls a week from families on the brink of homelessness in the four peninsula cities where it operates, said Chris Canter, the agency’s director of development.
“About 70 percent of the people that we’re seeing right now are homeless for the first time. They are homeless because of the loss of a job and they have not been able to find another job that can pay a livable wage,” Canter said.
KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:
When Jason Rosenberg lost his job as a carpenter, the only option for him, his pregnant girlfriend and their 2-year-old daughter was the First Step for Families Shelter in San Mateo.
“I didn’t know how to deal with it because it was the first time I had ever had a job that long, so I kind of let it get to me,” he said.
The shelter taught Rosenberg how to manage his money and stay motivated. Five months later, he works at a restaurant in Burlingame and has set his sights on culinary school.
His family plans to move out of the shelter next month after being approved for three years of subsidized housing. Fifty-five other families still wait to take their place.
The organization’s $8 million budget depends on state funding that has been disappearing, said Canter, the development director.
The agency took in 1,700 children and their families last year, and houses 200 kids at any given time, said the director of programs and services, Dr. Brian Green.
“The most frequent person is a school age child. It’s the most common homeless person,” Green said.
But homelessness can span the generations.
A mortgage that ballooned from $1,300 to $5,000 a month led Katherine Bernardi, her boyfriend, their 10-year-old son and her 73-year-old mother to the shelter in February.
Bernardi, who works as a waitress, said they’ve been struggling ever since they lost their Pacifica home two years ago. She agreed with Green’s assessment when it comes to misperceptions of the homeless.
“It’s just normal people,” she said. “Like anybody, I never expected to be homeless.”
They’ve been there four weeks. The average stay at the shelter is five months.
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