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Staff photo, Brooke Self
A family waits outside Desert Manna during the lunch hour to receive food assistance. Along with shelter and food services, the organization provides help to dozens of stranded travelers every year.

Stranded and helpless

Desert Manna assists travelers stuck on their journey


BARSTOW • The holidays mean more traveling, and as Barstow is situated at the intersection of three major highways, any car trouble means some of these journey-goers are stranded locally.

When California Highway Patrol identifies stranded travelers, they usually take them to the Desert Manna homeless shelter. There, the organization offers up to three nights food and accommodation and gas or bus vouchers to their destination, according to Board President Darrin Fikstad.

“This is the gateway to California, so we do get a disproportionate amount of stranded travelers,” Fikstad said. “We provide the service to dozens every year.”

This past week, Fikstad said the shelter has already assisted five individuals with gas and bus fare and that the organization is one of the only in San Bernardino County to help with this type of assistance.

“We’re definitely the only major provider in the High Desert,” he said.

The shelter sometimes get referrals from Victorville and budgets $50 per traveler to help with Greyhound bus fare. Common destinations include Bakersfield, San Diego or Las Vegas.

“Right after Thanksgiving to the end of December we start to see more. December is our biggest month,” he said.

When a stranded traveler comes to the shelter, after being dropped off by CHP, they undergo a background check to ensure they don’t have any serious convictions.

The shelter tries to accommodate all they can but they do have a limit of $50 per traveler, Fikstad said. Occasionally this is when local “secret angels” step in.

Barstow Station owners Ben and Bill Rosenberg have donated the difference on tickets for many travelers, or paid for extra baggage and sometimes donated whole tickets.

The shelter allocates money for these services at the beginning of each year but occasionally the funds are low. For example, last December a family of seven on their way to Modesto was stranded and, although the shelter’s budget for travelers was spent for the month, they were able to help the family on their way with the assistance of donors.

“We do get really stretched for our resources this time of year but we do the best we can to accommodate,” Fikstad said.

The shelter welcomes travelers from all different backgrounds and is equipped with telephones and Internet free to use by incomers.

For more information or to donate, go to

Contact the writer: or (760) 256-4123.

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