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.

In Need of $3,500 for Under-served Youth

Currently Bains is seeking just over $3,500 to help finance the trip for under-served youth. He said the teens and their parents have been hard at work raising money for the trip, but are still short of the goal.

He’s asking people to consider adopting a youth for $350, “to experience what many kids do on an annual basis”, but will gladly accept any donation. He said $350 covers 5-day access to both parks, a 5-night hotel stay, plus food and transportation.

“Project WeHOPE volunteers have negotiated the best price out there to stretch every penny possible for these kids to have a good time,” he said.

If you’re interested in making a donation to make the trip a reality for the students, you can use the “Donate” button on the Project WeHOPE website, or you can do it the old fashioned way by making a check out to Project WeHOPE with “Disney Trip” in the memo line, and mail it to P.O. Box 50624, Palo Alto, CA., 94303.

Ending Homelessness in EPA

A major focus of Bains’ has been achieving the dream of opening a year-round homeless shelter as the first step to helping people end the cycle of homelessness.

“I think we can end homelessness by 2022, I really think we can,” Bains told me recently.

According to a recent report to the city, EPA has an estimated 150 to 250 unsheltered people at any given point in time, with 40 to 60 more EPA residents in shelter beds in other parts of San Mateo County. A January homeless census showed that 20 percent of all homeless people in the county are in EPA, a town that is only about 4 percent of the county’s population.

“There’s really a pretty profound mismatch between where the inventory of beds is and where the homeless are in San Mateo County, when you look at East Palo Alto,” consultant Kate Bristol told council members at a June 19, 2012, meeting.

Bains said he and others from EPA and San Mateo County have been meeting for more than nine months to craft a plan to end homelessness. Key to the plan is turning the industrial warehouse where Project WeHOPE is located into a full-fledged shelter where guests can receive services with an aim toward getting them into permanent housing.

Already volunteers from the groups Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity have done some of the necessary construction inside the warehouse so that it can eventually house shelter guests year round.

Bains estimates it will cost approximately $756,000 a year to keep the shelter open. That includes salaries for case managers, whose job it would be to steer clients toward the services necessary to find a way out of homelessness.

It’s a large sum, especially when the county has provided about $45,000 to Project WeHOPE, and the city just kicked in $30,000. Bains said the group is searching for a fund development person to find grants and other monies.

“I know we’ll be open for six months (this coming season), but if we can raise the money to be open for a year, that would be fantastic,” he said.