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Del Mar church says first homeless shelter hosted since COVID a success

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Del Mar has said goodbye to four individuals, who’ve been living in the Parish Hall for the past two weeks. During their stay they were given warm beds, hot showers and home-cooked meals, as part of the Interfaith Rotational Shelter Program.

The Interfaith Rotational Shelter program has been running for the past 35 years, and involves different religious groups offering up temporary accommodation at their places of worship.

Applicants are screened by social services for things like drug and alcohol abuse before being referred to the program. Guests must also be willing to work alongside a case manager to find solutions to the issues which contributed to their homelessness.

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The number of guests at St. Peter's was lower than the 12 initially predicted. Volunteers think it was mostly due to the new COVID-19 vaccine requirements — Interfaith requires their shelter guests to be vaccinated.

But the organization said calls from people asking for help have increased from a few per day to around 20 per day within the last couple weeks.

The program has yielded some success stories: One guest has managed to find a job, and another has been reunited with her children.

“It’s been wonderful to interact with our parishioners and to listen to our guests tell their stories, which are not simple mental health or drugs and alcohol,” said volunteer Chistina Grobin.

Charles Seiler arrived at St. Peter’s two weeks ago with all his worldly belongings packed into a few boxes and bags. He’s been on the streets for around 10 years and often sleeps in his car. Seiler said it can be tough it can be to turn your life around.

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“There have been several times where someone has tried to help,” Seiler said. “But for whatever reason, I just couldn’t make enough to establish myself."

Charlotte Radulovich
/
KPBS
The entrance to St Peter's parish hall is shown. Del Mar, Calif. Jan. 6, 2023.

Volunteers helped the guests move to their new temporary home, St. James Church in Solana Beach, where they’ll spend the next couple of weeks. Two other families are also set to join them.

“They’re not different from you and I,” said volunteer Valerie Donaghue. “Circumstances have been such that they are here, and I just love listening to their experiences."