Article by THE SUN, written by Michel Nolan
Nonprofit Mary’s Mercy Center broke ground for a men’s shelter with $7 million from San Manuel
For Father Michael Barry, this week’s groundbreaking ceremony for Mary’s Village was a vision realized.
Father Mike, who’s president and board chairman for Mary’s Mercy Center, said his vision was to give homeless men quality of life, but it does take a community working together.
“The homeless population across this country is of pandemic proportions. The vision we have at Mary’s Mercy Center is not just feeding the homeless but giving them quality of life and restoring their dignity,” he said.
The afternoon sun shone on the gathering of about 160 community leaders on Wednesday, Jan. 9 – city and county officials, faith and business leaders and representatives of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, headed by Ken Ramirez, business committee secretary.
“San Manuel has been a partner with Mary’s Mercy Center for many years. This is our homeland – we have a vested interest,” Ramirez said. “This project empowers the men of this community to have a part of something bigger, a way up, and that’s what it’s all about – to help each other and make a better community.”
When he held up a huge check for $7.3 million from San Manuel to Mary’s Mercy Center, there was an audible gasp from the crowd along with a standing ovation.
“It is with great honor that we announce a continuing partnership with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians,” said Mike Hein, vice president of Mary’s Mercy Center.
This is the first large-scale service program for men in San Bernardino County, Fifth District County Supervisor Josie Gonzales told the gathering. “Group homes in the past have been loosely managed. Today, we are on a path away from that stigma – ultimately, we want to enable human beings who have lost their way,” she said.
Thanks to the generous donation from San Manuel and with support from hundreds of individuals, the nonprofit Mary’s Mercy Center can begin construction on the 11-acre facility, which will provide transitional, supportive housing to 115 homeless men.
Mary’s Village services will include intensive case management, substance use disorder counseling, adult basic education, vocational training, life skills, cognitive behavioral therapy, health and wellness, parenting and other programs as needed.
In addition, the new project was referred to as a “Clean Energy Poster Child” by Southern California Edison since it will be a Zero Net Energy project.
Mary’s Mercy Center, the original project started by Father Mike in 1987, provides hot meals five days a week, as well as hot showers, a clothes closet, medical screenings, food bags and other services to those in need.
The center provides about 90,000 meals each year, in addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with toys and gifts for children.
Marsha Olguin, director of Mary’s Table, which provides the daily hot meals to hundreds of people, said those who serve others truly have a heart for the community.
Over the years, I remember Marsha working to organize the dining room for hundreds of hungry diners, while I visited with head cook Terry Minchaca in the kitchen while she scrambled 125 eggs with bacon and sausage.
There was joy and love here.
Mary’s Mercy Center helps fix broken lives, working with the homeless, the aged and families in need, with hundreds of volunteers from various local faiths, schools and community organizations committed to helping others donate their time as well.
Mary’s Mercy Center in partnership with San Manuel, opened the doors of Veronica’s House of Mercy in 2009. A home for women and children, the homes are dedicated to providing a home for adult pregnant women and their children as a healthy alternative to abortion, domestic violence, substance abuse and homelessness.
Veronica’s Home of Mercy provides a loving and affirming atmosphere that restores dignity to women.
With the addition of the program for men, Mary’s Village will be able to offer a comprehensive housing program for the homeless population.
Since 1987, when he started Mary’s Mercy Center, Father Mike has held tight to this vision, knowing the day would come when the facility’s wraparound services would offer shelter to all of those in need.
The land for Mary’s Village, which is owned outright by Mary’s Mercy Center, will be developed in four phases with completion expected in 2020.
An architectural rendering of Mary’s Village was displayed on an easel for the gathering prior to the groundbreaking.
“This is the missing piece because it’s a dire need we have here in the city and the county to have a place for homeless men to rebuild their lives,” said Father Mike, noting he always had faith it would happen.
He reminded us of the powerful poem by Emma Lazarus at the foot of the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.”
Said Supervisor Gonzales, “Mary’s Village embraces a much-needed wraparound services approach that keeps people safe. We need to be supportive of this project – it is important to take a stand and make change happen.”
Michel Nolan appears in The Sun on Sundays. Reach her at [email protected]