Project WeHOPE Expanding Services to House the Homeless


Pastor Paul Bains puts out the Warming Shelter sign at Project WeHOPE in East Palo Alto.

Housing more homeless and at-risk adults in East Palo Alto through its successful Supportive Housing Program is the main goal of Project WeHOPE in 2015, the organization recently announced.

“San Mateo is very fortunate to have a partnership with Project WeHOPE. They do a remarkable job at providing a welcoming place – a warm and safe place to sleep, a nutritious meal, and the company of others who are also going through a rough patch in theirs lives,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum.

“Project WeHOPE lives up to its name. It gives the weary what they need to regroup and in doing so, helps them rekindle the hope they need for a better tomorrow. Thank you, Project WeHOPE,” said Slocum.

Launched in February 2014, the Supportive Housing Program started with a vision to give homeless clients the life tools to help them help themselves. It was well received by clients and the various county agencies involved, and as a result of its success, nearly 100 clients have been helped and over 20 have moved into permanent or supportive housing. [Read more…]

Catching Up With Project WeHOPE; Trip Sponsors Needed


I got a chance to catch up with Pastor Paul Bains of Project WeHOPE, the East Palo Alto nonprofit I reported on last year. The small organization is making significant inroads toward combating homelessness in a town of 2.2 square miles that has the largest homeless population in San Mateo County.

Recently the city council awarded Project WeHOPE a $30,000 grant for its warming shelter, the only homeless facility in East Palo Alto (EPA). This was down from an original request for $50,000; the council went through some quibbling over details of the request before settling on the final number .

But aside from leading the charge to end homelessness in East Palo Alto, Project WeHOPE is also a service agency for local youth, and currently has a need for sponsors and donations so volunteers can take students on an end-of-summer trip to Disneyland and Universal Studios. [Read more…]

Share Your Story: A Tale of Two Incorporators


Stewart Hyland of East Palo Alto shares this story below. If you have a story to share, visit our “Share Your Story” page.

Robert ‘Bob’ Hoover has been an institution in East Palo Alto starting in 1959 when he and his wife had come to Stanford but were not allowed to rent a home in Palo Alto so they moved into East Palo Alto. Carlos Romero went door to door in 1981-83 to advocate for residents to incorporate from a county municipality to a city. Both men served together to incorporate EPA.

In 2011 Mayor Carlos Romero convened two retreats to design a better funding strategy for Measure C Crime Prevention Parcel Tax. Making It Happen for Our Children President Bob Hoover, advocated for cross-service sector coordination as described in the Kania & Kramer’s ‘Collective Impact’ ( Both men have made lifelong commitments to a multicultural and changing East Palo Alto. [Read more…]

Rooted In Justice: MLK Day Tree Planting in East Palo Alto


About 90 volunteers descended on two schools in East Palo Alto today to plant a variety of fruit trees as a way to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

The nonprofit group Collective Roots organized the event at the East Palo Alto Phoenix Acadamy and the East Palo Alto Charter School. Volunteers came from all over the valley. There were high school groups, families with small children, Americorps volunteers, and residents from the neighborhood. Together they planted about 40 citrus and avocado trees around the playgrounds and parking areas of the Phoenix Acadamy, and another 25 on the grounds of the charter school, where Collective Roots operates an educational garden.

According to Executive Director Kris Jensen, the group will maintain the trees while they become established, and later will help coordinate harvesting fruit from the trees. In addition to running a creative hands-on learning program, Collective Roots also maintains the East Palo Alto Community Farmers’ Market and the Backyard Gardener Network. [Read more…]

Small Nonprofit With Big Impact Warms the Heart of Community


From left to right: Pastor Paul Bains, volunteer Jana Sullivan, board member Robert Sherrard, and community partner Thomas Madson. Madson serves as principal of East Palo Alto Phoenix Acadamy, a charter school that uses the gym for physical education during the day.

EAST PALO ALTO, CA – A small non-profit organization, Project WeHOPE, is warming the heart of this struggling community, both figuratively and literally.

Among its many initiatives, Project WeHOPE (“We Help Other People Excel”) founded East Palo Alto’s only warming shelter for homeless people in 2009. Every night from November to April, 27 people on average come in from the cold for a hot meal, medical attention, and a warm place to sleep. The shelter houses individuals, and increasingly in these economic times, entire families.

The shelter opened after it became apparent through the 2009 San Mateo County homeless census that East Palo Alto has the greatest percentage of homeless in the county.

“Very little was being done…no one was housing the homeless,” said Pastor Paul Bains, President of WeHOPE and co-founder with his wife Cheryl. They did what only made sense to them: opened the shelter in the organization’s gym, located in an industrial park warehouse.

But Bains wasn’t satisfied with just a place to come in from the cold. The shelter had to be, in his words, “not a hand out, but a hand up.” Everyone looking for help was evaluated for their medical and mental needs, and given help with connecting to longer-term transitional housing.

“We’re trying to help the people become members of society,” he said. “We help them to restore their dignity.”

Bains said one woman who had been living in a local field known as the “Field of Dreams” for more than five years is now in transitional housing because of the shelter.

“We initiated the help that got her into stable housing,” he said. “She has income now and when she feels she’s ready, she will get an apartment.”

The program was such a success during the winter of 2009 that Project WeHOPE’s leaders opened the shelter again in November 2010. Bains said the shelter housed on average 15 people per night last year.

“This year we’re relatively full, or close to full, every night,” Bains said.

But Bains said the shelter is $30,000 short of its fundraising goal to remain open through April of this year, when nights get a little warmer. It costs Project WeHOPE $145,000 to keep the shelter open for six months.

Bains said the organization is searching for more donations and grants not only for this season, but for next season, when San Mateo County officials have already told local non-profits they may not be able to fund programs like the Warming Shelter at the same level as in previous years.

The shelter’s meals are provided by community volunteers, but the shelter is mainly staffed with paid employees who are trained in how to evaluate and work with the homeless population. A well-trained paid staff is necessary, Bains said. “You can’t expect people to volunteer overnight seven days a week,” he added.

Ideally Bains would like the shelter to open its doors when the sun goes down around 5:30, instead of 8:00 p.m. But that would take another $13,000.

Other needs on the shelter’s wish list include men’s and women’s showers, which would serve both homeless clients, and people who use the gym when the shelter is not in operation.

In an effort to raise money for all the organizations programs, Project WeHOPE is hosting a fashion show charity banquet called “Enchanted Garden” on Feb. 26, 2011, in Redwood City. Bains said it will feature the designs of European-based designer RoiFord, who originally lived in East Palo Alto.

Besides the Warming Shelter, Project WeHOPE runs the Lord’s Gym Community Center, for East Palo Alto youth, the Chaplaincy Program, which offers support to the local law enforcement officers and crime victims, and the Technology Access Point (TAP) Center, which provides computer access for residents, as well as educational training for children and youth.

Volunteer Michael Holt (right) works with other volunteers inside the gym.

To donate to Project WeHOPE, go to the organization’s website and click on “Donate Now.”


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