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Volunteers help the homeless mend 

Where can indigent patients recover after medical treatment?

Transitional Food and Shelter, a nonprofit volunteer organization based in Paso Robles, arranges temporary private shelter for seriously ill and disabled people upon their release from hospitals. Pearl Munak, the president of the organization, said 454 clients were provided 5000 nights of temporary shelter during 2007 through its Motel Voucher program.

The referral-based program responds to calls from local Transitional Food and Shelter, a nonprofit volunteer organization based in Paso Robles, arranges temporary private shelter for seriously ill and disabled people upon their release from hospitals. Pearl Munak, the president of the organization, said 454 clients were provided 5000 nights of temporary shelter during 2007 through its Motel Voucher program. The referral-based program responds to calls from local hospitals, such agencies as the county’s Economic Opportunity Commission, and homeless shelters.

David Lichti, a caseworker for the SLO EOC, referred at least three families during the past three months. Lichti said, “Transitional Food and Shelter puts them up and we make sure they have food and transportation.”

click to enlarge Pearl Munak is the President of Transitional Food and Shelter, a nonprofit volunteer organization based in Paso Robles. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • Pearl Munak is the President of Transitional Food and Shelter, a nonprofit volunteer organization based in Paso Robles.

Every patient is screened for eligibility and must have a doctor’s note indicating they need bed rest to recuperate. The program’s volunteer housing coordinator reserves lodging for clients at local motels and hotels to coincide with their release from treatment. Some people stay longer than others, but the immediate needs of all are met.

 Munak recalled a single mother and her three children who were in a car accident. The injured mother was unable to work, couldn’t pay the rent, and the family consequently had nowhere to stay after they were released from the hospital. “They stayed in one of our places until she was well enough to get a job as a waitress,” Munak related.

Lichti described how Transitional Food and Shelter helped him house a man who had been living under a bush in Morro Bay for 17 years. After a tumor was removed from the side of his head, he was determined to return to his “home.”  Lichti finally convinced him to accept a room arranged by the program at the Anderson Hotel in SLO, where he could get care and rest. Besides finding a place for him, Lichti made sure the 62-year-old kept medical appointments. The two-year veteran caseworker said his referrals to the program have ranged from patients who had minor surgery on hands or legs, to heart patients. He recently referred a woman who had just given birth and for the infant’s health was not permitted to stay in a group shelter until the baby, who was born with a cleft palate, was 30 days old.

The voucher program also provides temporary apartments for terminally ill patients while helping them secure permanent housing, which could include a “tenant-based” rental association. The temporary housing has a bed, bathroom, and a small kitchenette. Clients in the tenant-based rental association pay a small portion of the rent for an apartment in one of 12 buildings throughout the county and Transitional Food and Shelter pays the rest.

Munak said the program outlays thousands of dollars annually for seven residences in the northern area of the county, five apartments in SLO, and room in one building in Arroyo Grande.

The organization operates a kitchen in the Second Baptist Church in Paso Robles that feeds 20 to 40 people lunch and dinner daily. Several volunteer teams from local churches staff the meals. They host a Families helping Families program each holiday season that connects families who are willing to donate a homemade meal and toys with families who are in need of the support.

Transitional Food and Shelter can provide such vital services thanks to grants, private donations, and eager volunteers. Munak does most of the grant writing but is looking for a volunteer grant researcher and writer.

“We’re at the end of our rope, getting all the grants we can get. The expanding case load and shrinking resources [mean we must] increase fundraising and donations,” Pearl emphasized. Transitional Food and Shelter needs volunteer housing coordinators and volunteer fundraisers for the Motel Voucher program. According to their website, the TFS program is also needs volunteers for publishing newsletters.

Contact the organization at 238-7056. To make a tax-deductible donation, make checks payable to Transitional Food and Shelter, Inc. at P.O. Box 4471, Paso Robles 93447. The program website, nowheretogo.com, lists fundraising opportunities for volunteers,  such as the recent Heritage Oaks Fun Run.

When referring to her own epiphany  as she listened to the Transitional Food and Shelter program’s founder speak at her church many years ago, Munak simply said, “I told myself this has got to be the most unmet need and it needs help, so I decided to get involved.”

Freelancer Tanya Gallardo is also New Times' receptionist. Contact her at tgallardo@newtimesslo.com.

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