November evenings have turned cool and many of the region’s homeless are left to find shelter and warmth for the night. One local organization is committed to aiding in that search.
Project T.O.U.C.H. (Together Our Unity Conquers Homelessness) was founded at a time when all was well with the economy after Anne Unmacht had an epiphany.
“In 2003, I was still selling real estate when I was pulled by the needs of the homeless,” Unmacht said.
“There is a national initiative to end homelessness and we hope to soon have a permanent home for Temecula’s homeless shelter,” Unmacht said. “Homelessness is not neat and tidy, but full of complex and complicated issues. We work closely with the local law enforcement and don’t enable our clients who commit crimes.”
Through the police rotation center, after a homeless person has been processed, he/she is asked if help is wanted to get off the street. That is where Project T.O.U.C.H.’s call center comes into play, along with partner churches through their Homeless Response Teams.
Unmacht’s goal of finding a permanent shelter for those in need is given a start by Project T.O.U.C.H’s transitional housing program that now includes 23 apartments in a master leasing program.
“This is one step up from a shelter,” Unmacht said. “We have shared units with single mothers because when there are working moms with children earning less than $600 per month and on food stamps, there just isn’t anywhere for some people to go.”
Project T.O.U.C.H.’s transitional housing program has been built largely on faith for the families who have lost everything.
In one year, the number of available units has grown from five to 23.
“We are working to tighten the program, to have it be even more effective and successful as we go forward,” Unmacht said.
The Assistance League of Temecula has worked with Project T.O.U.C.H. to provide vouchers for kitchenware, as well as donations for recipients of the program, she said.
“There have been cases where the Temecula Assistance League has donated interview clothes to make sure they have something presentable to wear for a job interview,” Unmacht said.
According to Unmacht, she has most recently sought partnerships with Temecula/Murrieta Rescue Mission and Rancho Community Church and lead pastor Scott Treadway.
“We have seen enormous support from business leaders in the community and area churches and are working with the city of Temecula to find a place we can call home,” she said. “We’ve often been referred to as the ‘Homeless Homeless Shelter,’ but we hope and pray that we can get our shelter open by the end of the month.’”
Obstacles to converting the space they have located off Diaz Road include proper permitting, licensing, and upgrades to the facility for public health and welfare.
Due to state of California budget changes from November’s election, Mayor Chuck Washington said: “Once there is more certainty that affordable housing funds will be coming from the state, then the city will be in a better position to address those with affordable housing needs.”
With winter on its way, this is the season to remember others, but according to Unmacht, it’s always a season for giving.
“During Thanksgiving, and Christmas, it’s a great time to consider donating to a worthy cause and for the area’s homeless, donations are always needed.”
To learn more, visit www.projecttouchonline.com.
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.