Over the Hill

Nonprofit’s future is uncertain

I had a long talk Sunday with Pearl Munak. She and her husband, Edwin, have a farm north of Paso Robles. We talked about a real-life puzzle: What to do with sick, homeless people who are released from hospitals to go home to recuperate, but, of course, have no homes?

Munak and six other volunteers work every day at their solution to that puzzle. They run a small charity called Transitional Food and Shelter, which was founded in 1998.

They’ve been able to provide temporary housing for about 450 ill and disabled homeless people per year. The people housed by Transitional Food and Shelter may have severe breathing problems, recent heart surgery, terminal cancer or many other medical problems. Or they may have at-risk pregnancies or premature babies. They stay until they recover or can get subsidized housing elsewhere.

Homeless people get referred to Transitional Food and Shelter by hospitals and other agencies. Doctors must declare them too ill to go to regular homeless shelters, which have scheduled hours of operation, causing them to be on the streets while those shelters are closed.

Munak said local doctors and hospitals won’t give chemotherapy to homeless patients because they might collapse on the street from weakness.

But the volunteers aren’t sure they can keep the program going. Donations are down because our economy is, itself, struggling to recuperate from its own recent near-death experience. Governments and businesses are slashing spending and shedding employees.

Munak said the city of Paso Robles shrank its contribution to her organization. For the current fiscal year, it gave about $20,000, but for the fiscal year starting July 1, it will give less than $11,000. She said a city official told her that more local charities applied for the grants this year because of the hard times and state cutbacks.

She also said a private foundation, which donated $20,000 this fiscal year, isn’t offering any grants for the next fiscal year.

Transitional Food and Housing serves homeless invalids all over the county. The organization rents 10 studio apartments or rooms by the month in Atascadero, San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande. Munak said they need two more apartments, which will probably cost $650 per month each. When all units are full, they must put the people into motel rooms, which cost even more.

Donations may be sent to Transitional Food and Shelter Inc., P.O. Box 4417, Paso Robles, CA 93447. Its nonprofit number is 77-0489535. They would also like some help putting on a major fundraiser, which they’ve never attempted before. Contact Munak at pearltrans@aol.com.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.