If The Heritage House in Mariposa closed its doors, the shock waves would be felt across the community.
The house, established in 2001, is slated to close March 31, 2011. But Manager Bryan Blew is seeking support from businesses and community members to turn the facility into a nonprofit before it shuts down. "We are willing to take any kind of donations," he said.
The $96,000 it takes to operate the facility was slashed, Blew said. Funding for the house came from the state's Proposition 36 program. The program offers treatment instead of incarceration to nonviolent drug offenders.
However, California lawmakers cut funding for the proposition in 2009 in the midst of the state's budget crisis. Linda Murdock, supervisor for Alcohol and Drug Services in Mariposa County, said the county was able to apply for a one-time federal stimulus grant to keep the house open after the state funding ended. That one-time source of money is set to expire in March. "We are all trying to find ways to help it survive," she said.
The services the house provides include drug and alcohol recovery support and counseling and referral services. The facility also is frequented by homeless in the area when they need a meal or shelter for a few hours.
Blew said he wants the facility to continue to operate because the community needs it. Not to be able to offer those services would reverse positive momentum, he said. "We've made a lot of progress," he said. "We are going to go backwards if the community doesn't get the support it needs."
He said the facility is the only one of its kind in the area. It's also the only place for homeless people to turn to. " We don't have a homeless shelter," he said. "They can go to the library, but the library is not open all the time."
Richard Mead, 55, moved to Mariposa six months ago to receive drug recovery services at Heritage House. "This place has saved my life," he said. "I don't know where else I would be. I would probably be dead or in prison."
Mead said it's important to keep the house open for two main reasons. First, to help people who are struggling and who haven't found the facility yet. Second, to provide a safe place during the day for them to avoid other places where they might get into trouble.
Robert Jakobsen, 50, who described himself as a retired combat veteran, said he's recovering from alcoholism. He not only comes in for the recovery services, but also to give back to the community.
Jakobsen comes to the house three days a week to offer counseling services to other veterans. "It's hard to make that transition from the military into civilian life," he said. "There are a lot of issues with family and the readjustment."
Jakobsen occasionally travels to a veteran's center in Fresno to learn about the benefits for veterans. He later shares that information with nine other veterans who are also receiving recovery services at the facility.
He said closing the facility could damage the community. He thinks crime would rise. "It would dramatically affect the whole community," he said. "Within the first six months, I think there would be a noticeable difference."
Blew said he wants people to realize that if the house closed, the entire community would feel the loss. He said it wouldn't be a "healthy community."
The hundreds of people the facility helps each year, he said, would be left with nowhere to go to seek the services they need.
To support The Heritage House in becoming a nonprofit, call (209) 966-7770.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209)388-6507, or firstname.lastname@example.org.