A-1 Self Storage has the privilege of helping people from all walks of life through a variety of situations. Sometimes that means sharing the joy that comes with a new job or growing family. Other times can be more difficult, such as the passing of a loved one or a deployment overseas.
One of the most difficult and complex situations our renters can face is homelessness. While our rental agreement does not allow tenants to use their self storage unit as housing, we recognize the important role storage can play when someone is trying to get back on their feet.
As a company based in Southern California, we have seen rising homelessness among the communities we serve first hand. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development the rate of homelessness in California rose by 14% in 2017 alone.
Tonight more than 130,000 people in California will go to sleep homeless. Almost half will be women and children, and more than 6,000 will be veterans of our military. We believe this is unacceptable, that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, and that we must do something about this issue.
Led by this spirit of service, we are proud to support East County Transitional Living Center (ECTLC) by providing a donation for the construction of two new dormitories. ECTLC is a nonprofit organization that, through Christ, provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, and many essential services for homeless persons and families.
Brian Caster, A-1 Self Storage President & CEO, lives just a few miles from ECTLC and said he was drawn to the organization over others because of their commitment to giving people a hand up, rather than a hand out.
“We’ve seen homelessness become a bigger issue in our storage business and wanted to do more to help the community. After researching all of the different homeless agencies and programs, East County Transitional Living Center stood out as a shining star,” Caster said. “They are truly helping the homeless become self sufficient rather than just giving them services. They do not depend on government handouts”
Harold Brown, East County Transitional Living Center CEO, said the organization helps around 100 families and 700 individuals make the transition from homelessness to self sufficiency each year. Even with this great work, ECTLC’s waiting list still has more than 80 families.
When the new dormitories open, approximately 40 more families and more than 100 children will benefit from ECTLC’s services. Brown said he plans to break ground in the fall of 2018.
“The build will be very unique as we hope to pour the foundations and underground plumbing prior to a Saturday 12-hour build where we hope to see 40 to 50 contractors, and 300 to 400 workers build the two buildings in a 12 hour period,” Brown said. “We hope this will send a huge message to the rest of the country on how working in the private sector with private funds and no government funding we can build, house, and restore lives at a fraction of the cost government run programs and facilities do.”
James Merino, Family Services Director, said that the expansion will allow more people to benefit from the program ECTLC provides. This includes classes in financial literacy and anger management, GED coursework, and career counseling. Bible study is a core component of the curriculum, as part of ECTLC’s mission is to minister to the whole person in mind, body, and spirit. The program is completely free to participants.
“I really consider what we do here as a spiritual emergency room where people come in and they’re in trauma and it’s up to us to try to stabilize them,” Merino said. “One thing I want is for people to understand they can change, that God can restore, that he can take pieces that are broken and make a beautiful mosaic. Once they’re healed, it’s our job to help them back into society as the person they were meant to be.”
Merino, who also oversees case management for the organization, agreed that the programs are geared toward equipping people with the tools they need to be self sufficient, rather than providing short term assistance. Compared to similar organizations, the programs at ECTLC have a reputation for being rigorous, but effective.
“It’s a hard program. There are going to be rules and restrictions, but you get out of it what you put into it,” said Marcay Tucker. “I did other programs and would have three months clean here, six months clean here, but this program actually worked. I’ve been able to maintain my sobriety and take the things that I’ve learned here, and apply them to my life.”
Tucker’s journey through the programs at ECTLC began about four years ago when she met Merino and his wife, Claudia. The Merinos were performing street outreach to the homeless population downtown, passing out food and clothes while sharing a sermon, when they met Tucker.
At the time, Tucker was living on the street with her then boyfriend. She had recently moved from Hawaii and was addicted to crystal meth. Tucker says she met a lot of people trying to minister to the homeless population during that time, but most didn’t seem to genuinely care and she rarely saw the same people more than once. James and Claudia were different. They remembered Tucker’s name and got to know her over a long period of time. They invited Tucker and her boyfriend out to dinner and to spend time on their boat. These simple acts of friendship helped Tucker feel like a normal person and she eventually entered the programs at ECTLC.
“When you’re homeless you deal with a lot of rejection. A lot of people won’t even look at you. People will turn their head and run away from you acting like you’re going to try and steal something,” Tucker said. “They let two drug addicts into their home to take a shower. That’s huge, you know? That speaks volumes. They made me feel loved for the first time in a long time.”
Today, Tucker uses the skills she developed at ECTLC to work with another organization that helps those suffering from addiction find a path to recovery.
“Four years ago, I was on the street homeless with nothing. Now, I have so much. My husband and I have our own car, we have a new baby, we’re about to buy a house,” Tucker said. “It’s just amazing to see what God has done in such a short period of time, but ECTLC is where I got my foundation.”
Thank you to the team at ECTLC for the incredible work you do. All of us here at A-1 Self Storage are grateful for the opportunity to support your organization and can’t wait to be at the opening of the new dormitories!
If you would like to donate time, talent or materials to ECTLC, opportunities can be found online at www.ectlc.org, by phone at 619-442-0457, or you can feel free to stop by the center at 1527 East Main St in El Cajon, CA.