New San Bernardino shelter will house 100 women and chldren

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Captain Stephen Ball stands in the facility undrgoing construction. [Photo by Rodrigo Pena]

The Press-Enterprise

The Salvation Army expects to complete a $500,000 project next month to transform an aging, 77-bed drug rehabilitation center for men in San Bernardino into a homeless shelter for as many as 100 women and children.

Crews have been swarming the 2-acre facility on 10th Street since early August. They stripped the building to its walls, are replacing its roof and have torn out some of the concrete floors.

When completed, the building will have 23 rooms, nine bathrooms, a kitchen, a day room and a two-room library and media center, said Capt. Stephen Ball, San Bernardino corps officer for the Salvation Army.

“We are giving this entire building a facelift,” Ball said. “It had a lot of issues, the biggest one being the roof. It had rotting face boards. The whole roof is now brand new.”

The concrete block building has been used by the Salvation Army for more than four decades, he said, and its renovation is complicated by a host of minor retrofits over the years.

In recent years, the building has been used as a home for 77 men recovering from drug and alcohol addition.

They have been moved to a new facility at Mill Street and Doolittle Drive near San Bernardino International Airport. That center has space for 122 people.

“Since they built their brand new facility across town, the Salvation Army in essence transferred this property over to our branch of the ministry, which is the community center side,” Ball said.

He runs the San Bernardino Salvation Army Center for Worship and Service on Fifth Street, where 96 people have been fed and housed in cramped quarters.

The new shelter “will allow us to take care of more people and do it with far greater dignity,” Ball said. “At the other place (on Fifth Street), it’s mats on the floor in a large communal room. There is only one shower room.

“Here we are going to have nine brand-new bathrooms,” he said. “Each bathroom will have a shower, sink, tub, baby-changing table and nice new lighting.”

A $25,000 grant from Target will help to pay for the two-room library and media center, which will have a television and library tables in one room and 10 computers in the other.

“We are going to buy all kinds of educational software and resources for remedial teaching of math, reading and writing,” he said.

A school district has been providing tutoring at the Fifth Street site, but tutors have to move around the building to find a place to work.

“The center of the operation is in this little dinky room about one-sixth the size of these two rooms combined,” Ball said as he stood in the middle of the soon-to-be constructed media center.

Mike Hernandez, 49, a former methamphetamine user, has been sleeping on a mattress on the floor of the 10th Street shelter to serve as a security guard during construction.

He said he hopes to land a permanent volunteer job at the new shelter.

“This place is going to be good for the kids and mothers,” he said. “They are going to have their own rooms. They are going to be able to have beds, closets, laundries and a place to shower. It sounds pretty good.”

Fellow volunteer Nathaniel Montes, 23, has lived at the Fifth Street center for five months. He said he gave up using methamphetamine two years ago.

He, too, hopes to land a job at the new shelter.

“I want to help women and children because it makes me feel good,” he said. “I used to be selfish. Now I feel good about myself. This is what I want to do.”

In addition to the shelter, Ball said, the new facility will provide overnight space for as many as 35 people when temperatures dip to 45 degrees or colder.

“We have plans in the future, when we find the funding, to build transitional apartments” for families to stay as long as two years, he said.

The eight two- and three-bedroom apartments, some of which would be built on a second floor over the homeless shelter, will cost about $1.8 million to construct.

The Salvation Army is seeking donations. Donors can contribute in person at 746 W. Fifth St. in San Bernardino or by calling 800-725-2769.

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