VISTA — Operation HOPE-Vista has offered shelter and a haven to those facing homelessness since its inception in 2003. The community is invited to support its programs by attending the 15th annual Spring into Hope Dinner and Auction on March 24. This year’s theme is The Enchanted Garden and the event will take place at Gloria McClellan Center in Vista.
Operation Hope-Vista organizers promise a night of fun and must-have auction items with all money raised going toward offering hope and shelter to homeless families.
In 2017, Operation Hope-Vista housed 215 people, more than 50 percent of them children.
Executive director Kathleen Higgins said Operation Hope-Vista is unique in that it is a homeless shelter specifically for families.
“When the city came to us in 2003, it was specifically with the idea that we would serve families because, in those days, there were a couple of winter shelters for single men,” she said. “There were some beds for single women, but not that many. There was nothing for families.”
Operation Hope-Vista helps bridge this gap.
Higgins said in traditional shelters where there are bunk beds in a large dorm area, mothers will not get a much sleep because they’ll be concerned about the safety of their children.
Another significant issue has to do with teenage boys. “If your boy is older than 12, he would be required to sleep on the male side, and no mother in her right mind is going to let her 13-year-old boy sleep by himself with strange men,” Higgins said. “So, we really needed something for families, and that has always been our focus.”
According to Higgins, Operation Hope-Vista does have a small six-bed dorm for single women. A lot of times, other family members are able to take children in. This allows mothers the time they need to rest and help put everything in order.
Higgins said they also have single fathers with children, mothers and fathers with their children, and mothers and grandmothers with children.
“A family is a family, and so how you present to me as a family is how we will house you,” she said. “Everybody has their own story.”
Operation Hope-Vista has 45 beds. Higgins said that when they are “full,” sometimes that doesn’t mean that they have 45 beds full.
“What’s unique about our shelter is that each family has their own private room,” she said. “So, if it’s a room for four, but it’s a family of three, then that fourth bed would stay vacant so that the family could have their privacy.”
Higgins said the shelter wasn’t built that way. The property was initially a clinic, so each of the rooms was an examination room. Operation Hope-Vista constructed itself on an existing footprint.
Higgins said when a family becomes homeless, the first thing that starts to go is the strength of the family unit. The communication begins to crumble.
“You’re trying to figure out how to put a roof over your children’s head or put food in their mouth that night,” she said. You’re really not that interested in what they did at school that day — and it isn’t because you’re really not interested — it’s because you have bigger problems.”
By providing homeless families with their own room at Operation Hope-Vista, almost immediately, that family unit begins to heal. Within a week, Higgins said, she can see a difference in how the families are reacting to each other.
And from there, families are assigned a specific program plan designed to address their unique challenges to help arm them with the tools they need to succeed.
To learn more about the 15th annual Spring into Hope Dinner and Auction on March 24 and ways to support Operation Hope-Vista through different sponsorship levels throughout the year, visit www.operationhopeshelter.org or call (760) 536-3880.