Homeless shelter includes a community garden.

Hannah’s House is the site of the Redlands Community Learning Garden.

Five weeks ago, Tonya Perry’s life took a life-altering turn.  She went from sleeping in her car with her 18-year-old daughter Aurora at a Stater Bros. parking lot in Redlands to hosting a housewarming party on Saturday, Oct. 26, in her new home, Deborah’s House of Hope.

Located in Redlands, the three-bedroom house is the newest addition to The Blessing Center’s transformative housing program, which provides six months to a year of transitional housing for seven families in two homes.   About a mile away, the other home in the program, Hannah’s House of Hope, now in its 10th year of service, held an open house on the same day.  Both events were open to the community and provided snacks, refreshments and raffle prizes.   

“These homes are transitional, but the whole process is transformative in people’s lives,” said the center’s founder and senior director, Dr. Craig Turley.  

Homes are rented to homeless women based on a sliding scale of rent. Some don’t pay at all if they can’t afford it. Women are then placed on an employment or education track while also receiving services from New Hope Clinic, Christian Counseling Services, School on Wheels and a food bank.  

Hannah’s House has a designated therapy room and is also the site of the Redlands Community Garden, which has a three-phase plan in the works that will benefit residents of the homes and the community.  Thrive Single Moms in Redlands, a partner organization, oversees the service components.  

“This is helping a lot of women and you really feel good about that,”  said Susan Bresslers, co-owner of Deborah’s House with her husband Lloyd. “God is working.”  

The Bresslers said it was God’s timing that led them to rent out their home to The Blessing Center and allow it to be used for these purposes instead of putting it up for sale.    

Alysa Deane, volunteer and coordinator of the day’s events, said she and her husband Wyatt helped prepare Deborah’s House in a series of weekend backyard projects and by providing other basic necessities.   

“We want to let the community know that homeless women and their children need a dinner table too,” Alysa said.  “There just aren’t enough resources in Redlands to fill the need.”  

Limited as they may be, resources for sheltered homeless children and their mothers in Redlands do exist. The issue is knowing where to find them.

The McKinney-Vento Act defines sheltered homeless children and youth as those who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. They are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters or any other public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, according to the California Department of Education.  The federal law ensures the rights of students in these circumstances to attend school. There are 3,000 such students in the Redlands Unified School District, Turley said.  

Among them were Aurora and her 7-year-old brother Izra.  But a timely conversation with a counselor at Redlands East Valley High School, which resulted in a referral to the Blessing Center from the school district, started the process that landed the family a spot in their new home.  In about four days, they had moved in, and soon after Perry was also reunited with her son Izra, who had been living with an aunt while she and Aurora were homeless.  

The goal for Perry now is income enhancement so that she can transition into permanent supportive housing in six months.

The vision is to create a consortium of transitional homes that provide a safe, stable and secure environment for the fatherless because the Bible says they are the most vulnerable, Turley said.  

However, that doesn’t mean that men are immune to this need. Paul Prieto, a homeless single father of three children, shared details about his situation at the housewarming event.  

“I work full time at the Burrage Mansion, but I spend all my paycheck on motels every day so that my children have a place to sleep,” he said.  

There is a huge case for the need for assistance for homeless children and their dads, Turley said.  

“If we had 10 homes available today, we’d fill them up in a week. But affordable housing is the issue.”