Part II – Living Hope: Real Solutions for Poverty and Homelessness

The looming, 70-year-old stucco building that has housed Living Hope Compassion Ministries for two decades is topped by a large, plain cross that looks like it’s poised for a triple gainer from a wedding-cake façade.

For two decades, Living Hope Compassion Ministries has been located in this 1930’s-era building in the Parkview neighborhood. Photo by Doni Chamberlain.

Living Hope’s warehouse-style building at State and Favretto streets in Redding is located about a quarter mile southward of South City Park and the Shasta County Library, and about the same distance north of the Good News Rescue Mission, all hangouts for some of the city’s largest indigent populations.

There was a time in Living Hope’s youth that its location was perfectly suited for its clientele, though the Parkview neighborhood residents may have begged to differ. Then, it was part soup kitchen and part drop-in day center that primarily served the homeless and addicted. For about 15 years Living Hope offered free access to food, clothes, laundry, showers and nap facilities.

Four years ago, when Mike Mojarro first became Living Hope’s executive director, he was often apologetic about his organization’s location.

Mike Mojarro is Living Hope’s executive director.

He sympathized with the Parkview residents, many of whom frequently called the police to report myriad crimes they said were committed by some Living Hope clients.

Mojarro understood where his neighbors were coming from, and often wondered whether Living Hope would be better-suited in a rural, ranch-like setting. He pictured a place with gardens, animals and all kinds of vocational training, far from the city core.

“Setting up shop in a neighborhood struggling with poverty and becoming a hub for free resources does not revitalize a community,” he said.

The change-making awareness for Mojarro and his team came around the time of their enlightenment via the “Toxic Charity” philosophy where author Robert D. Lupton suggests that well-meaning churches and charities sometimes inadvertently foster dependence and entitlement in the very people they’re trying to help.

In part, that change of mind and heart explains today’s contrast between Living Hope’s old days and current operations. Now Living Hope avoids giving hand-outs, though it still offers some free food in its lobby for the needy, and will deliver bottled water to street folks on the hottest days.

But its main focus is on tangible, interactive programs to help end poverty and homelessness. Examples include Living Hope’s Neighborhood Networks food cooperative, the Life Cycles bike program, The Shack restaurant and its woodworking shop.

These programs are transitional stepping stones designed to lead the poor and homeless outside Living Hope and into sustainable lives.

That’s exactly what’s happened with many of Living Hope’s formerly homeless clients.  Though Mojarro asked that we maintain clients’ dignity and employers’ confidentiality by withholding names, Mojarro listed the current job categories as health care, food service, horticulture, construction, retail and non-profit faith-based.

As delighted as Mojarro is to discuss those successes, he’s also frustrated because he knows that with more resources, Living Hope could be doing so much more. His current wish-list includes:

• A Living Hope restaurant food truck, “A Meal With a Mission” operated by clients. Its cost: About $40,000.

• Funds to cover less-exciting expenses, like payroll and utilities.

• More money to pay more clients – homeless consumers turned producers – for employment inside Living Hope. Currently Living Hope has  six paid employees, but Mojarro would like more.

He’s grateful for the partnerships he has with other faith-based non-profits. And he’s especially thankful for two churches,  Redding First Church of the Nazarene and Little Country Church, that have added Living Hope as an annual budget line item. However, he’s disappointed and amazed that so many other other churches have rejected Living Hope’s plea to be included as an annual budget line item for a half of 1 percent to help support its work with the poor and homeless.

“There are nearly 100 churches in the Redding area,” Mojarro said. “If we are truly followers of the Gospel, we Christians need to come together to solve the problems of our shared community.”

Regarding getting community help, he finds it interesting that in some ways, it was easier to entice the public to contribute when Living Hope was mostly about  handing out free food and clothes, easily understandable items. But Mojarro said it’s more difficult for the community to get its head around more abstract concepts, like resources to empower the homeless and lift people out of poverty.

Lisa Payne applies liquid sandpaper to a small vintage end table. “We bring them back to life,” she said of her wood projects. Photo by Shelly Shively.

But it’s his job to try to make people understand, just as it’s his job to show up at Redding City Council meetings to say his piece regarding homeless issues, as he did on July 16.  Some of his family and friends were incredulous that he’d spend the entire evening at a city council meeting, which happened to fall on his birthday, just to say something that probably wouldn’t effect any real change. (See City Council video, below. Go to 49:22 on the video.)

But then, there’s the flip side, when he’s humbled by those who consistently give when they can least afford it, such as a woman at Living Hope who participates in the $10 Challenge fundraiser.

“So here’s this lady willing to sacrifice what little she had,” he said. “Ten dollars a month for so many people is just a drop in the bucket. For her, it’s a lot.”

He’s inspired by people like that woman, and the scores of poor who come through Living Hope’s doors each day, not looking for free stuff, but seeking hope, and demonstrating a willingness to work to make it happen. That last part is key, Mojarro said.

“Truly, we have only been a catalyst for change in those that were motivated and ready for change,” Mojarro said.

“Many of the people we see here, they want to work, and they’re ready to change, but they need opportunities. We want to let leaders emerge. And we want people to become their best selves. We know everyone is not ready to change. But we are here for them when they are ready.”

So, Mojarro remains optimistic and realistic, a combination of his belief in God and his seed-feed-and-meet-the-needs   mentality when it comes to the homeless and jobless.

Meanwhile, he’s starting to make peace with Living Hope’s location, now that it has a change of direction toward interactive participation, job training and entrepreneurship.

“Now I am thinking we are right where we need to be, providing a service for the community.”

Even so, he acknowledges that some of his heart’s desires for Living Hope may not happen in his lifetime. It doesn’t stop him from doing everything he can to make things happen sooner.

 

Click on the link below to hear Mike Mojarro speak – located at 49:22 on the video – before the Redding City Council in response to Councilwoman Missy McArthur’s comment about homeless day centers.
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Click here for Part 1 – Living Hope: Helping People Help Themselves

Click here for information about The Shack, Living Hope’s restaurant . (Usually it’s open on the third Sunday. This month it’s the fourth Sunday for a special event. Details to follow.) 

Click here for information about Living Hope’s $10 Challenge.

Click here for Jon Lewis’ story about the July 16 Redding City Council meeting and the Sit-Lie Ordinance.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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33 Responses

  1. Randall R Smith Randall R Smith says:

    There is much to do to stop the cycle of enabling and weakening those in need. Thanks for sharing information about someone dedicated to the proposition that work is the key to ending sloth and filth. If public assistance could be directed through people like Mike Mojarro, may be real change would occur.

    • Avatar Handouts Dont' says:

      The whole talk of a "day shelter" is alarming.

      First off, we have more than enough organizations all providing assistance to homeless people. These in the form of both public sponsored programs and non-profit charities.

      Homeless folks hear about handouts available and communicate that to other homeless folks world-wide. It's why so many come here.

      Redding and Shasta County have more programs and charities than almost any other city of its size in the state and nation.

      We do not need anymore, or a "day shelter." In fact, we need to consolidate down to maybe 1 or 2 organizations.

      In my opinion, a "day shelter" would only be a place for people to watch television all day.

      I doubt there is a single television at Living Hope.

      • Avatar Bob says:

        The world-wide publicity of Redding as a Mecca for the homeless must be while so many of them speak foreign languages! — Give it a break; your world-wide conspiracy theory makes you sound truly uninformed.

        • Avatar Handouts Don't says:

          Sorry you feel the need to be insulting. I am VERY well informed about homeless situations and what goes on. Very well educated too.

          The fact that Redding/Shasta County is a homeless destination is very true – no matter how much denial people are in.

  2. Avatar Reverend Re Run says:

    "There are nearly 100 churches in the Redding area," Mojarro said. "If we are truly followers of the Gospel, we Christians need to come together to solve the problems of our shared community."

    If you were truly a follower of the Gospel Mr Mojarro, you would throw the "Toxic Charity" book away you replaced your Bible with.

    Freely you received Mr. Mojarro, freely you should give"

  3. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    'Fraid Rev. Rerun is missing the point here.

    YOU GO, MIKE!!!

    • Avatar Reverend Re Run says:

      I see no reference from Mike about Jesus Christ or the Power of the Holy Spirit in these last 2 lengthy articles or in my long personal interactions with him except this one time and only to complain about them.

      Not

      one

      time

      Somebody…lost…their…first…Love

      • Good grief, Reverend Re Run, or St. Jude, or Vern, or whatever aliases you use … I hesitate to even reply to you, because generally, I give less credibility to those who hide behind fake names because they have zero accountability for the stuff they leave in the comment section.

        I wrote the article, I chose the words, not Mike.

        This isn't a story about Mike's Christianity, but about the changes at Living Hope, and Mike's work at Living Hope, both of which are guided by Christian beliefs.

        You said you read the previous piece, so you may recall when he talked about how Living Hope's success comes not from spouting Bible verses, but by demonstrating the Gospel through actions.

        I invite you to join the converstation here at anewscafe.com, but next time with civililzed, constructive comments made under your real name.

        If you cannot do that, then you are free to leave and hijack some other website's comment section, where anonymous flame-throwers are welcome.

        • Avatar A Concerned Citizen says:

          Doni,

          Thank you for letting me know what your site is, and isn't, about.

          A Concerned Citizen

  4. Avatar Handouts Dont' says:

    Thank you Doni for such a great Part II article!

    Living Hope is what we need more of.

    I don't think there is any argument from folks that there are too many social service and homeless focused agencies here. Way too many.

    No one argues that at all.

    There are more programs and services here in Redding and Shasta County than any other city in the state.

    This is one of the many reasons homeless people flock to Redding. The number of handout agencies available, plus our lax law enforcement and moderate climate make this the perfect place.

    Handouts indeed not only do not help, but make people dependent. Handouts indeed make people dependent and needy.

    Living Hope seems so different.

    So again, thanks for such a wonderful article.

  5. Avatar Handouts Dont' says:

    Doni – not sure if this is "relative" to the discussion, however my husband also reminded me that we used Mike's detail service one.

    I had forgot about that.

    Husband tells me he arrived on time, did exactly what he said he would do – and a fantastic job at that. Husband noted price was reasonable.

    Sounds like Mike runs his business and Living Hope with honesty, integrity and principles.

  6. Avatar Revrend Re Run says:

    Indeed, it is a beautyful place for Randall R Smith and Handouts Dont' Help and other kindred spirits to hang out at. Certainly no room for opposing opinions, let alone a video of Jesus Christ. Good you found it offensive and took it down.

    I will be leaving this site absolutely but first I would like to say I think your articles probably best stay with lemon curds and hydrangeas because in my opinion your are damaging to homeless compassion, put homeless folks in danger, and quench the Holy Spirit.

    • Avatar Handouts Don't says:

      Let's take a look at it all from another vantage point.

      In the business world that I come from, we are constantly reassessing and evaluating our effectiveness against our business plans and goals. We look at our mission statements, forecast, etc. We look at what we have done. We look at what is working, and what is broken or needing to be fixed.

      Business people are constantly adjusting their methods. They develop new ideas and delivery plans, toss out ineffective ones and begin the improvement processes all over again.

      This is what successful businesses do.

      Sometimes there are casualties like no longer doing what you have always done.

      Let's compare this to traditional handout methods of "helping" the homeless.

      Why do you think the "Handouts Don't Help" campaign is gaining popularity by leaps and bounds?

      People are coming to the realization that constantly give, give, give and give had not helped. The homeless population has not been reduced. The same people are being helped time after time after time.

      Handouts don't help, and are not effective.

      Handouts do more damage than good

      Handouts are counter-productive, and only enable people.

      Handouts only make people dependent.

      The Living Hope philosophy is so much different. It is new, refreshing and effective.

      So, let's not do handouts anymore and help those organization that help people truly help themselves!

      This just makes sense!

    • Avatar jhill says:

      You have a video of Jesus Christ…How exciting…I didn't think there was that kind of technology 2000 years ago.

      It's time to stop being such fanatical followers and think outside of the box.

      Give a man a fish and he will eat a meal…Teach a man to fish and he can feed his family!

      We need more privately funded programs that create gainful employment for the able bodied.

      May God Richly Bless You with His Truth

  7. Avatar Anonymous Heckler says:

    Might want to double-check the geography wrt the library, which these days is next to South City Park.

  8. Avatar Michael Mojarro says:

    I just wanted to mention that there are 2 churches that have us as a line item, Redding First Church of the Nazarene, and Little Country Church in Redding. When Doni and I spoke, I mentioned that we haven't had any of the churches do the 1/2 a percent commitment. There are however several churches in the area that support Living Hope in various ways. My comment was suggesting that if each church gave .5 percent of their monthly budget, Living Hope would be able to increase our services dramatically. With.5% of the local churches budgets, we would be able to make a huge impact in the disenfranchised, and the local economy.

  9. Avatar Patrecia B. says:

    It's a real shame that an area with so many churches does so little for the poor and homeless. I had a similar experience myself in calling local churches to ask if their congregations would be willing to sponsor a homeless family or individual (carefully screened by a reputable agency). The reaction from all but one of the pastors/church representatives I spoke with fell basically into three categories: 1. We already give a little money to the Mission, POP (etc.) whenever we have a few dollars to spare. 2. We help members of our own congregations (I've found that is often not the case). 3. The poor and homeless are really not our focus – we have to choose our battles.

    I can't find a link at the moment, but a few years ago a coalition of churches in Sacramento raised something like $40,000.00 (which qualified them for a several million in federal funds) to create and operate hundreds of apartments for homeless families, and they did it in a very limited amount of time.

    In addition, the Fresno chapter of the ACLU actually came into being in response to civil rights violations of homeless people. Here the local ACLU chapter backs the Tea Party in expanding its venue for handing out W. Cleon Souskin leaflets (anyone who is not familiar with that person can look him up). I've never seen an area that is so indifferent – if not openly hostile – to the poor and homeless. Most churches apparently feel that just spreading the "Word" is all they are called upon to do. That's so much easier than actually doing something compassionate and productive.

    Randall Smith,

    Homeless is not all about "sloth and filth". You wouldn't recognize most homeless people as such if they fell on your head (this, I assume, falls under the banner of "flame-throwing" on this heavily controlled website).

  10. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    "Heavily controlled website"? Holy hyperbole, Batman!

    No one should ever put up with unpleasant guests in their private home. A privately funded website is a virtual home. The owner of a website has every right to create and enforce the rules. When you have guests in your home, you expect them to be kind of respectful of each other. If they’re not, they’re asked to leave.

    There are all those other websites out there that have zero monitoring of comments. No one but sadists and masochists descend into those pits. I'm personally grateful that Doni prohibits ad hominem attacks against other commenters.

  11. Avatar Patrecia B. says:

    Barbara,

    It's also a website that's made available to the general public.

    Frankly I only comment on this site under a few articles a year (when someone else calls them to my attention), and usually in relation to articles on homelessness. I don't find the article above objectionable, which is not something I can say about most of what has been published on that subject on this website. I've found other articles to be highly slanted and biased.

    I guess I'm kind of attached to the freedom of speech thing – which includes the freedom to disagree with other posters and/or with what appears in the articles. I was certainly offended by Randall Smith equating the homeless with "filth and sloth" (and I note that Doni did not take HIM to task for that offensive remark). However – being that this is a website accessible to the public at large – he has the right to express his opinion, no matter how harmful it may be to a vulnerable population.

    I'm not familiar with any website that has "zero" monitoring of comments, but I would much prefer a website that allows open debate, rather than one where posters who do anything other than praise the article and its author are discouraged from commenting.

  12. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    All this cuss and discussion brings to mind a couple of things my mother used to say.:

    #1. Most people will not read the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but they WILL read the gospel according to your life.

    #2. What you do speaks so loud I can't hear what you say.

    So maybe our mantra should be, "Shut up and do!"

    And Barbara, your comment about guests in our home, RIGHT ON!

  13. Avatar Heather Phillips says:

    My young family has witnessed the transformation of Living Hope since we purchased our home just across the street just 5 years ago. There is a beautiful, fruitful garden in their yard and both my husband and I ride vintage bicycles purchased from the bike shop. We tithe to Living Hope because what they are doing there is so good and genuine and uplifting to people on a human level, not just meeting their bodily needs.

    Thank you, Doni, for highlighting Michael. He is an amazing human, neighbor, and friend.

  14. Avatar Richard says:

    Doni, thank you so much for this article. I have lived in "Wildwood Park", the oldest subdivision in Redding for over 33 years and was totally unaware of Living Hope Ministries which is less than a half mile away. Mike Mojarro is doing very impressive work, and I'll be eager to see his facility, meet some of those folks working hard to improve their lives, and will gladly support his program.

    In response to Rev. Re Run and Patrecia B., the "sloth and filth" to which Randall Smith alluded are both readily apparent in our neighborhood, and as Neighborhood Watch captains, my wife and I as well as our neighbors would be very willing to give you a tour of the various campsites nearby. If you are offended by the mere words "sloth and filth", you might imagine how offended local residents have become with the stark reality.

    And Doni, as a result of your prior article on the distressing view from downtown, we visited Carousel, met the delightful and long-suffering Sam Allen, and saw first hand what she endures on a daily basis outside the window of her business. Perhaps the good Rev. Re Run and Patrecia might wish to tour that area as well.

    There are those who would if they could, and those who could but won't. The former deserve whatever resources we can provide, but to extend endless compassion and assistance to the latter is a task for which most of us are simply disinclined.

  15. Avatar Patrecia B. says:

    Richard,

    I'm well aware that there is a highly visible drug-addicted element among the homeless, having spent some years working with the homeless in general. However, my experience has taught me that this element is in the minority, and that there are a great many other less visible people who are in that situation due strictly to economic factors beyond their control – many of them women with children. There has been an almost exclusive focus on the worst of the worst in this forum, with the implication that "drug addict" and "homeless" are synonymous terms.

    Randall Smith's comment states that public aid "enables and weakens" people in need (a very broad and general category), and that we should force anyone experiencing a crisis to go through a religious non-profit. Fixing bikes and woodworking are not necessarily the best use of all homeless people's time. I also fail to see how woodworking and bike repair leads to jobs in fields like "health care", or prepares them for the job market in general. In addition, the safety and security of housing is usually a prerequisite for holding down a job or being in a position to benefit from other help/services.

    I'm sure a certain segment of the homeless population can benefit from Rev. Mojarro's program. However, that benefit is limited, and would not be particularly helpful for a majority of the homeless (for whom being housed/sheltered is the number one priority), so let's not present it as a catch-all "answer" to the crisis of homelessness.

    • Avatar Handouts Don't says:

      At least the people who participate in Living Hope are TRYING – which is a lot more than I can say for most people in other programs!

  16. Avatar Richard says:

    Patrecia,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and cogent reply, and your excellent observations. Having just returned moments ago from a morning bike ride along the A.C.I.D. canal, around South City Park, the library, City Hall, and the River Park, I certainly agree that the "highly visible" element is out in full force, with a veritable plethora of trash to announce their presence. As to what percentage of the homeless they might comprise, it is truly hard to know. But it is indeed difficult to muster a great deal of empathy for those folks who not only do not contribute to society, but can't be bothered to clean up after themselves. I doubt Christ would have approved of them fouling their surroundings.

    On the way home, I did cycle around Living Hope several times, and look forward to touring it during business hours. I would also appreciate knowing what data you might have on the homeless women and children you mentioned, since I would be quite willing to collaborate with others in financially supporting a means-tested program for them as well.

    In the meantime, I heartily applaud Chief Paoletti, Randall Smith, Bob Brannon, and Bethel Church for their efforts to restore our beautiful surroundings to a trash/graffiti-free state.

  17. Avatar Patrecia B. says:

    Richard,

    Below are figures on homelessness, both on a local and national level. According to the 2013 one-day "point-in-time" survey conducted every January in Redding, children represented roughly one-third (195) of the 673 homeless people found just within the space of a few hours. Our last available year-long homeless survey is for 2011, when families with children represented roughly one-fifth (222) of homeless "households", but it doesn't appear to state exactly how many children that is. I would assume most of those "households" have more than one child.

    Children comprise 39 percent of the homeless nationwide, which tallies fairly closely with figures we've seen here in past years.

    There are adequate shelter facilities in this area for drug/alcohol-addicted adults, and even a 12-unit "transitional housing" facility for families has as its focus heads-of-households who are recovering drug addicts with criminal histories. There is next to nothing in this area for mainstream homeless families, who are comprised mainly of women and children.

    (It looks like the website won't accept my links, so I'm going to try posting them one at a time).

    http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/who.ht

  18. Avatar Richard says:

    Patrecia,

    Many thanks for the good information found on both links. Doni's interview with Melinda

    Brown in Feb. 2012 was particularly informative.

  19. Avatar Breakfast Guy says:

    Perhaps it's time to post a informative piece concerning the inevitable Affordable Care Act.