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Staff photo, Shea Johnson
Desert Manna Executive Director Sheri Randolph shows San Bernardino County Third District Supervisor James Ramos part of the homeless shelter's food pantry. Ramos came to tour the facilities on Monday.

Desert Manna campaigning for city, county funding

Supervisor Ramos visits site on Monday

STAFF WRITER

BARSTOW • Desert Manna Executive Director Sheri Randolph and Board President Darrin Fikstad said they’re aggressively planning expanding the homeless shelter and food pantry that provides hundreds of services each year to the community.

With hopes of operating from a new campus facility by January 2015, they said they need consistent city and county financial assistance which Randolph said has been “few and far between.”

“Desert Manna was formed by a community task force,” Randolph said. “I think a lot of people don’t know that or have forgotten it. It was formed to be a one-stop shop so churches or whoever could send people who need help. And we have fulfilled that mission for the past 24 years, but we need county and city support.”

The organization, which provides food to 10 percent of the community through a number of separate food pantry programs along with homeless shelter support, job training and utility assistance, said it’s not included in the city’s line item budget.

Fikstad said that’s the norm for organizations like theirs throughout the country.

“If you look at shelters in San Diego, Portland or Phoenix their financial statements show that the city and county governments are supporting their facilities,” he said. “We may not be in as big a city as theirs but Desert Manna is one of the largest social services providers in San Bernardino County.”

Fikstad and Randolph said they’ve been successful in securing funding from several private donors, local businesses and even from Fort Irwin, which donates surplus MREs. But the shelter is lacking from ongoing local government financial support.

“I think we’ve had a very positive relationship (with the City of Barstow), in the past three years we’ve been able to make a lot of strides forward and now we need to look forward going to the next step,” Fikstad said. “We want to make sure when commitments are made that they are followed through.”

Fikstad said the city promised the organization $30,000 in support this past year, but has postponed offering the money. He also said smaller non-profits such as Desert Sanctuary and New Hope Village have received scheduled yearly funding in the amount of $20,000 from the city.

“We need to be in the line item budget,” Fikstad said. “We need to be funded at whatever level and we need to be able to rely on that.”

San Bernardino County Third District Supervisor James Ramos visited the shelter on Monday and said he would be an advocate for the shelter among various committees within the county.

“I think it’s really eye opening to see the need here in Barstow and to see Desert Manna and what it is providing to the community — not just to the City of Barstow — but the county as a whole,” Ramos said.

Ramos said he visited U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office in Washington, D.C. recently and it was discussed that San Bernardino County has seen the largest increase in homeless families in the country within the last few years.

“There are 30,000 students at risk of homelessness within San Bernardino County and 4-5,000 that are homeless,” said Ramos’ Deputy Chief of Staff Chris Car rillo.

Moving forward, Fikstad said the shelter has identified a 4-acre location for the new facility within Barstow situated away from the downtown area which he said is “the wrong location” for the campus. He said the City of Barstow has committed to doing the infrastructure and sidewalks at their new location, it is just a matter of getting the lot approved and securing the finances to begin construction.

Currently Desert Manna’s services are spread out between four buildings.

“We’re getting ourselves positioned to foresee any needs of the community and not have them fall through the cracks,” Fikstad said. “Being proactive, not reactive.”

City spokesman Anthony Riley said in a statement Barstow is supportive of Desert Manna and will continue to collaborate with them “for their continued success and to achieve their goals to help end hunger and homelessness in the Barstow area.”

“We certainly appreciate their efforts to continually improve services to the homeless and low-income residents in our community,” Riley said.

Contact the writer: BSelf@DesertDispatch.com or (760) 256-4123.


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