PATTERSON — A recent fire in the rural Stanislaus County town of Patterson has highlighted the need for more homeless shelters there.
Over the weekend, the blaze hit an area known as “the cages.” The flames burned seven units and destroyed what few possessions the homeless women who live there had.
Each unit was never designed to be lived in; they all once sat on the back of trucks.
“It’s a cage that used to haul tomatoes and different kinds of vegetables, I think. We put plywood up and made them into little rooms,” said Jennifer Zambrano, who was once homeless. “It’s not an easy life.”
“No electricity, nothing. No showers, no nothing, no running water,” said Laura Elkinton, the director of programs for the nonprofit HOST.
There is no women’s shelter in Patterson and HOST is the only homeless shelter in town. Elkinton said most homeless people in Patterson are men and their shelter only houses 25 beds.
“There’s just no bed space here for women,” she said.
Unlike neighboring Modesto, Patterson’s population is smaller.
“Unfortunately, we have a tendency to get overlooked,” Elkinton said.
Elkinton said after seeking funding from the county, $350,000 will be put toward Naomi’s House, which will be Patterson’s first women’s shelter.
It will house 25 women and will be right next door to HOSTS’s location.
Elkinton hopes it will create more success stories like Zambrano’s. She credits HOST with turning her life around, now working and nine months sober after 33 years as an addict.
While in recovery with HOST, Zambrano slept in her car.
“If we had a women’s shelter here a lot of these women would be off the streets and getting their lives back in order,” she told FOX40.
The new shelter will run on donations and they’ll need more than the $350,000 to operate and staff the homeless shelter when everything is done.
The hope is that everything is ready before Thanksgiving.