Shepherd’s Gate isn’t your everyday homeless shelter. “There are a lot of organizations out there like ours, but what sets Shepherd’s Gate apart is our remarkable success in the past, coupled with the scope of our current project. I don’t know of another shelter in the country that provides the range of services that we soon will,” says Jennifer Harp, public relations director.
Located in Livermore, California, a small town northeast of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Shepherd’s Gate is an emergency shelter that has made a big difference in the lives of thousands of people in the Bay Area. Shepherd’s Gate has provided short-term housing and services to women and children in crisis since 1984.
The shelter houses up to 16 people at a time and limits stays to four weeks, during which residents receive help in finding housing, jobs, and/or schooling. The program has had remarkable success: 91 percent of the women who stay committed to the shelter’s program until their release have gone on to make significant improvements in their own lives. They rent their own apartments, secure jobs, or find help in other long-term recovery facilities.
Those who eye that high figure with skepticism should know that Shepherd’s Gate has a comprehensive aftercare program that keeps track of the women and children who spend time there. A case manager is assigned to each person who is released, and regular check-ups ensure that those who leave Shepherd’s Gate will continue to turn their lives around. Those who need further help or company after their release are encouraged to join Shepherd’s Gate representatives for monthly dinners and to partake of food and clothing at the shelter’s donation center.
Now, thanks to a generous grant from the Cowell Foundation in San Francisco, Shepherd’s Gate has been given the opportunity to expand its services significantly. A $175,000 donation from the Cowell Foundation is allowing the shelter to embark on an extraordinarily ambitious project: building its Transition Home Center, which will provide an astonishing array of services that may be unparalleled in the nation.
Now under construction on a four-and-a-half acre campus across the street from the current emergency shelter, the Transition Home Center will include a counseling center, medical clinic, and daycare facility.
The Cowell Foundation’s funding will support a Life Center that Harp says will serve as the “hub” of the new transitional community. The Life Center will offer a number of services and facilities, including afterschool programs for kids and a computer training center that is expected to play a major role in providing job skills to the residents of Shepherd’s Gate.
Upon completion, the center will have the capacity to house 100 women and children for up to 18 months each. Thus those who are suffering from long-term abuses and homelessness will have far more time to recover.
Harp is very enthusiastic about the mammoth project. “We currently turn away approximately 100 women and children a month. We’re eager to get the Transition Home facility up and running as quickly as possible, because it will provide long-term housing and will keep us from having to close our doors to so many women and children who are in need.”
Susan Vandiver, vice president for grant programs at the Cowell Foundation, worked closely with Steve McRee, executive director of Shepherd’s Gate, and was pleased with what she saw there. “Shepherd’s Gate has put together comprehensive and successful services for the families it serves. It has very strong volunteer participation and a large donor base, both of which indicate the depth of support for the organization and its work.”
The Cowell Foundation first established a relationship with Shepherd’s Gate in December 1994. That was when the foundation donated $50,000 to help Shepherd’s Gate purchase the land on which the Life Center is now being built.
The Cowell Foundation confines most of its giving to Northern California and, Vandiver says, seeks to fund groups with strong track records. “We like their organization because they have had good success finding long-term placement—both housing and jobs—for the people they help. Those who are released from their care tend not to fall again.”
Vandiver said her foundation was also very impressed by the fact that Shepherd’s Gate operates without any government funding. Furthermore, notes Vandiver, Livermore “is definitely a community that has a high demand for a transitional center.”
The Cowell Foundation did not just fork over $175,000 to the homeless shelter. The money came in the form of a challenge grant and was not issued until Shepherd’s Gate was able to raise another $175,000 through other means.
Construction of the comprehensive Transition Home Center is proceeding in stages. If the current building schedule is followed and nothing delays construction plans, Shepherd’s Gate’s ambitious vision will become a reality by 2003. And the generously funded Life Center will be the cornerstone on which that reality stands.