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The Changing Face of the Homeless

by Staff
November 18, 2009
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MEDIA ADVISORY, ( -- On television or in movies, the homeless are often portrayed as middle age men with cheap wine, huddled around a fire in an inner city ally. But, for Mission Solano, half way between San Francisco and Sacramento, the homeless that come to them for services are likely to be a young mother with multiple children.

"Often those who come to us had a roof over their head just weeks before. But a husband or boyfriend leaves, rent can't be paid, and the remainder of the family is quickly on the streets," says Ron Marlette, Executive Director of Mission Solano. "The real change between now and a generation ago is that these newly homeless do not have family or friends in the community to rely on. In the past, they might have moved in with a parent or a friend. Now, there is much more isolation or strained relationships."

The changing face of homelessness has played a part in the architecture and building schedule of Mission Solano's unique and aggressive Fairfield shelter project, the Bridge to Life Center. Built on three and a half acres, the first occupied phase of this project is scheduled for a ribbon cutting and "house warming" celebration on Thursday November 19th. Along with a child care center this phase contains a women and children shelter and twelve, two bedroom mini-apartments for families; the traditional men's dormitory is scheduled for a later phase of development.

When completed, the Bridge to Life Center will consist of The Matt Garcia Home for Women and Children, the family units, men's shelter, day care facility, dining hall, chapel, educational facilities, support buildings, and the first of its kind Urban Institute for training and equipping the social, urban leaders of tomorrow.

"The decision not to build the traditional people warehouse of men's and women's dormitories was an easy one for us," said Marlette. "We have been housing homeless men, women and children for eleven years while preparing to build this facility. And we will continue to provide this emergency shelter as the Bridge to Life is completed."

In 1998 Mission Solano introduced a unique sheltering program and a new term to the language: Nomadic Sheltering. Without a permanent shelter, Mission Solano developed a mobile mission that moves from one church building to another every day, 365 days a year. Mission Solano plans to continue the Nomadic Sheltering program alongside the much broader services to be offered at the Bridge to Life Center.

The Bridge to Life Center comes with a heavy price tag of $11,500,000.00. "We certainly know that this is a big expense in such an economy. But, in this economy the need for such a facility is even greater," said Marlette. The Bridge to Life Center is the product of an unprecedented public-private partnership. Marlette noted, "No government, business or charitable organization would have built the Bridge to Life Center on its own. But working together we are developing something that will be a model for caring for the homeless." HomeAid Northern California, the charitable arm of the home building industry, is Mission Solano's primary partner in the planning and building of the Bridge to Life Center.

See this innovative, holistic center for breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness at

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