A Place to find Shelter, Growth and Hope for our Desert’s Most Vulnerable

By Lisa Morgan

I started researching this story after talking with Matthew Naylor, Founder and Executive Director of Music Programs for Marquee Performing Arts. He explained that he was working on finding a way to transport 10 homeless children from Martha’s Village to the academy, so that they could participate in the free music program. I thought to myself, “TEN HOMELESS CHILDREN!! – here in OUR community?!!” I was astounded. At least I thought I was, until I spoke with Bob Therieau, Communications Manager, from Martha’s Village. Today’s current numbers* took my breath away: 21 homeless families are seeking shelter and a new start at Martha’s Village, right now as I write. That number includes 25 adults and 32 children. There are another 26 single adults, women and men, in addition to that number. That is a total of 83 homeless individuals, and that is just the number of people who managed to find their way to Martha’s Village and had the courage to ask for help.
Times have been difficult for the best of us. It is not a far cry to say, that at one point or another, a perfect life-storm of sorts could not have placed many of us in the same position. Sure, some of these clients deal with mental illness. Some of their troubles may seem to be self-inflicted where drugs and/or alcohol have been a huge factor in bringing them to these hard times. But even if you lack the education, experience and humility to understand that part of our desert’s demographic, any presence of compassion has to be stirred when you realize that 32 children are currently homeless in our neighborhood to no fault of their own. That is the size of an entire, large classroom!
Martha’s Village does their best to provide a safe and healthy community for all who enter their doors. They, with help from volunteers and local businesses, are providing field trips to the pool or to the beach, along with other programs, to keep children who are currently out of school learning, active, and maybe more importantly, smiling over the summer school break. Meanwhile, their parents have access to computers and educational programs to help them better themselves and become independent. Martha’s Village has effectively utilized donations to provide professional and structured programs and services to these temporary residents. 92% of the families served, who exited their transitional housing program, moved to permanent and stable housing. The services are always free of charge and are easily accessible under one roof. Martha’s Village now touches thousands of lives a year and is one of the largest providers of homeless services anywhere in Riverside County.
Summer times are difficult in the desert, but especially for our nonprofit facilities. Many of the snowbirds that contribute time and money have left, leaving us full time residents to care for our own. Here are some very easy ways we can do that:
When you go to Walmart or Costco (or wherever you shop for yourself or your family), buy an extra package of socks; buy one extra set of white towels, hand towels and/or washcloths; any and all hygienic items such as soap, shampoo, conditioner etc. are put to good use. Children’s sunblock is also a much needed item.
If you have a group: book club, band, social club, church group ~ think about doing a group project at Martha’s Village. They will be more than happy to tell you what their needs are and to work with whatever skill set you have to offer. (Even organizing the food provisions in their climate controlled warehouse is helpful)
Talk to them about how you can help with a couple of hours out of your week. There is no better cure for depression or boredom than to contribute to give to others.
Like any charity, cash donations are a vital part of keeping everyday things going – they literally keep the lights on. Donations are tax deductible and gosh darn it, they make you feel good!
Martha’s Village has been a highly respected and productive organization in the Coachella Valley since its early beginning in 1990, when founders Gloria Gomez and Claudia Castorena started serving meals to their homeless neighbors in need. Martha’s Village addresses the underlying causes of homelessness, and challenges each resident to become a better person through Bridges to Independence, a groundbreaking approach to rehabilitation. “We offer a gateway to hope where people regain their lives to become responsible, self-sufficient, productive citizens and pass their newfound independence and life skills on to their children and families. We know that when we can change one person’s life, we can change generations of lives.”
Coachella Valley Weekly will proudly be bringing you success stories of changed lives that are a result of this necessary and valuable asset to our desert community. Meanwhile, for more information on how you or your group can help support these families with children as well as these adults who are working hard to recover from difficult times, go to marthasvillage.org or call them any time at (760) 347-4741.