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Door of Hope Offers Homeless Shelter, 'Life-Changing Renewal'

November 16, 1986|SANDRA CROCKETT | Times Staff Writer

Raul Anon was ashamed. The proud 39-year-old husband and father of two had no money, no food for his family and no place for them to stay.

Anon had spent the last of the family's money on a hotel room.

With hope dwindling, Anon squared his slender shoulders, gathered his wife, Elsa, and their 5-year-old twin sons and went to the First Nazarene Church of Pasadena. There, Anon broke down and sobbed as he told church members about his problems.

Through the church, Anon learned of a place where he could temporarily house and feed his family free of charge.

Not an Institution

This was a different sort of shelter, he was told, more like a home than an institution. And unlike most shelters, which house mostly single people, it took in entire families.

More important, it required residents to save all the money they received during their six-to-eight-week stay in preparation for their departure.

This haven for the troubled is called the Door of Hope, a rambling nine-bedroom building with a spacious lawn and garden in predominantly minority northwest Pasadena.

After two months on a waiting list, Anon and his family finally moved into the Door of Hope in mid-October. Three weeks later, he had saved nearly $1,000 toward a security deposit and rent on a home for his family.

As Anon stood in the large, sunny living room of the Door of Hope on North Los Robles Avenue last week, it was apparent that the gloom that had sent him to the church had given way to hope.

"I am proud to be in this house," he said.

'Reason for Me to Be Here'

"There is a reason for me to be here. If I had not come here, I would not have learned what I have learned," said Anon, who added that he has become a stronger Christian during his stay at the Door of Hope.

Anon said one of the greatest benefits has been the chance to save money while he was living in the home.

"I'm fatter now than I was three weeks ago," he said, hugging his sons, Adrian and Fabian.

The nonprofit, non-denominational home, which operates on donations from individuals and churches in the area, has been open for about a year and gets inquiries about admittance from about 15 individuals and churches a day, said its director, Roy Peterson. Most families are referred by local clergy and none are accepted "off the street," Peterson said.

To get in, parents must agree to look for work every day, turn all income over to Peterson, follow a regular meal schedule and attend Bible classes at the home twice a week. Parents and their children also are required to attend the church of their choice on Sundays.

Substance abuse is prohibited, and residents must abide by a nightly curfew. The residents also contribute to the care of the home.

"There are rules," Anon said. But he said he told the staff when he moved in, "OK. I'm in your hands now." And the rules are not hard to follow, he said.

'Every Cent' Returned

"When they leave, every cent of their money is turned back over to them," said Peterson, whose goal is to "return families to productive lives in society through a new relationship with Christ."

Peterson, a minister affiliated with the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles, got his divinity degree from Biola University in 1981. He left his job working with Skid Row drunks after nine years to fulfill his dream of working with poor people in the suburbs.

"Anyone can 'warehouse' people by giving out food and clothing," he said. "The Door of Hope is interested in life-changing renewal."

Peterson said he hopes his facility, which he believes is the only one of its kind, will become a model for family shelters elsewhere.

"It is a home atmosphere and we want the people here to think of this as their home," said Peterson.

'Keep Families Together'

"We keep families together," Peterson said of the shelter. "We want them to get their lives together."

Peterson said that the first Door of Hope opened in August, 1985, in a three-bedroom home in the northwest Pasadena and, because the waiting list was so long, moved last month to larger quarters purchased by a Pasadena businessman who thought that Christian compassion should encircle the homeless.

"The word is getting around and more people are finding out about it," Peterson said.

Since it opened, the Door of Hope has served about 20 families, of which about 15 have had some success in living on their own. "They're in a better position than when they came in here," Peterson said.

The home's three other staff members, including two divinity students, work with the families, teaching them such things as the fundamentals of money management and car repairs.

Communal Meals

Peterson said it costs nearly $12,000 a month to run the facility, which can accommodate up to eight families at one time.

Peterson said that each family occupies a bedroom furnished with bunk beds and that they take their meals, brought by members of area church congregations, together in a large dining room.

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