Addressing homeless crisis in San Bernardino with compassion and hope

Rob McMillan Image
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Addressing homeless crisis in San Bernardino with compassion and hope
As the homeless population increases in San Bernardino County, so do the efforts to help feed and clothe those on the streets.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Homelessness is an issue that touches nearly every community in Southern California. In the Inland Empire, Mary's Mercy House in San Bernardino is just one place that is helping to clothe and feed the homeless, but soon more help will come with the addition of a new transitional shelter.

More help, for a problem that continues to grow.

A man, recently homeless, who wants to stay anonymous, gives us his perspective.

"My day is depressing, basically it starts with getting food," he said.

His message is that finding yourself homeless can happen quickly.

"I think the thing that most people don't realize...two or three mistakes in their life and they can get up right where I'm at," he said.

RELATED: SoCal residents concerned over becoming homeless, call issue a 'crisis'

He says about a year ago, he had a job as a welder. He had a car and shelter, but now, nothing.

On this day, he's hanging out with a growing crowd of people at Bobby Vega Park in San Bernardino.

In San Bernardino County, like many counties -- according to the numbers -- the problem is getting worse.

The number of homeless is up 23% from last year.

People on the street say there are so many of them, the shelters are flooded and they often can't get into one. Although for some, drug and alcohol addiction is such a problem, they're not allowed inside.

"The shelters are flooded, you can't get into a shelter," the homeless man said. "A lot of people have drinking problems, and if you smell like beer, you can't get in."

For him, transportation is the main problem.

"You'd have to hang out there all day just to get a spot, and that's not feasible to do," he said.

Father Michael Barry runs Mary's Mercy House in San Bernardino. They give clothes to the homeless, and prepare 8,000 meals a month, but it's not enough.

"When we talk about the homeless, it's like the water coming in on the beach, it's all over the place, and we have to begin to address what we can," Barry said.

He said while there aren't enough services out there for the homeless now, more help is on the way.

Barry said they've broken ground on a new facility, and phase one should be complete in about a year. That would mean 82 beds for homeless men, but it won't be just a place for them to sleep.

"There are all sorts of needs that emerge; they need clothing, and things like, 'I need to get from here to a job interview.' We help them with that, bus passes, things like that," Barry explained.

He acknowledges not everyone will make it through the program. He's hoping for a 50% success rate.

"Everybody's doing a little bit. I have no false impressions that we're doing everything we can do. I know there's a lot more, but we're scratching the surface," Barry said.

Some who are on the street remain hopeful.

"Something will come along," the homeless man said. "I think that's what everyone is waiting for."