Book of Dreams

Cambridge Academies’ HOST House program helps men get a “restart” on life

Within half an hour one recent morning, three success stories walked through the door of HOST House. All are graduates of the Enterprise Restart residential program, the nonprofit Cambridge Academies runs at the Patterson shelter.

First was Doug Thompson, who graduated the six-month program in June and now is on the Cambridge staff as a residential supervisor at HOST (Help Others Sleep Tonight), one of the featured agencies for The Bee’s annual fundraiser, “A Book of Dreams.”

Like the others who’ve gone through the restart program and stayed at HOST — which has been managed by Cambridge since November 2017 — the Patterson native came voluntarily.

“I really had no place else to go,” said Thompson, who did prison time for burglary and arson convictions. He didn’t want to be a burden to his family in town, but also “needed some way to get back in my children’s lives.” He has a son, 19, and two daughters, 16 and 9.

doug thompson.jpg
Doug Thompson, Cambridge Academies’ Enterprise Restart grad and HOST House residential group supervisor. Cambridge Academies

He’s been working to become someone his kids can be proud of, Thompson said. “Everything I do good here and since I’ve been here, I brag to them and they’re really excited.”

He said he’s learned to be a positive thinker, and when faced with something negative, he doesn’t let it bother him the way it used to.

(Donate to “A Book of Dreams” by going to

Thompson also has learned job skills, and HOST House Director of Programs Laura Elkinton said he does HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) data gathering for Cambridge, as well as other administrative work, including keeping track of food service at the shelter.

Another graduate, Gene Martinez, came in to wait on fellow grad and business partner Gerald Stewart to return from a class he’s taking at Modesto Junior College. Building on entrepreneurial skills they learned through Restart, the men began G&G Mobile Recycling about six months ago.

The guys rise early to make rounds picking up scrap copper and brass, CRV containers, plastics, appliances, “pretty much everything,” Martinez said. They had cards printed, and business started picking up about four months ago. They have a business pickup truck, and “we’re looking to get a trailer because we’re growing and we have to step up.“

Teaching entrepreneurial skills, which really apply to any work environment, is a key part of Restart, Cambridge Academies Executive Director Geni Boyer said. Among those skills are problem solving, conflict management, public speaking, planning and personal accountability.

A number of the previously homeless or incarcerated men who have taken or are taking the Restart program already have been entrepreneurs “in a different way,” Boyer said, drawing soft, knowing laughter from the few staffers and grads around her. “We teach them how to be entrepreneurs in a legitimate way.”

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A third grad, Marlon Cummings, who interns and lives at HOST, came in with some good news of his own. He’d be moving out, and getting his own apartment in Patterson. Cummings is an intern at HOST, monitoring daily activities like laundry and meal service to help ensure they go smoothly.

He’s studying sociology at MJC, with the goal of becoming a counselor to troubled youth. Cummings can relate, because he lived in a household of domestic violence until his mother had enough and took herself and her kids to a shelter for battered women. They lived there about a year. “Honestly, it was the best day when my mom packed our stuff and got us in the car.”

Seemingly speaking of no one in particular, Boyer said, “These guys less than a year ago were at the park — high, drunk and messing everything up. And now, they lead teams to clean up the park.”

Some are driven by wanting to reconnect with their families, their children, Boyer said. All enter voluntarily, ready to take responsibility for their actions and improve their lot in life, she said, adding that Restart/HOST has a 75 percent success rate.

The homelike environment at HOST House is important to residents’ success because most have gone back and forth between jail and the streets much of their lives. “They’ve been living by the oleanders,” Boyer said. “They have no models on how to do life.”

That’s why the rules of the house include high expectations on things like keeping rooms clean, doing and folding laundry, tucking shoes under a bed or otherwise out of the way.

“We’ve had to teach these guys how to live in a house,” said Boyer, who’s found that “having boundaries in a strong but loving way feels good to them.”


About HOST (Help Others Sleep Tonight) House

405 S. Fourth St., Patterson. 209-894-2652


Our Featured Agencies

Nov. 4: Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus

Nov. 11: Cambridge Academies (Host House, Patterson)

Nov. 18: Stanislaus Family Promise of Greater Modesto

Nov. 25: Salvation Army

Dec. 2: Turlock Gospel Mission

Dec. 9: Children’s Crisis Center (manages Guardian House in Oakdale)

Dec. 16: Modesto Gospel Mission

To donate online, go to

About the Book of Dreams


A Book of Dreams Contributors

This is a list of contributors – through Nov. 10 – to the Book of Dreams, the annual fundraiser by The Modesto Bee, in partnership with the Stanislaus Community Foundation, to support seven Stanislaus County nonprofit agencies. To donate, go to

NameIn honor/memory ofamount

John Stott

Victoria Higginbotham

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