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Orange County Focus

Countywide : Volunteers Erect Shelter Framework


A group of volunteer construction workers and formerly homeless people on Friday raised the wooden frame for a 90-bed women and children's homeless shelter on Lemon Street in Orange.

Teams of about 10 men pushed up the sections of the wooden frame and lifted them onto steel bolts sticking up from the foundation.

The frame for the first floor of the 8,000-square-foot building was raised in under two hours.

The House of Hope is due for completion by Thanksgiving of this year, said Jim Palmer, director of the Orange County Rescue Mission, which will run the $2.3-million facility.

Palmer said the shelter will offer an 18-month program of housing, counseling, health care, education and job training to women and their children. There are about 6,000 homeless women and children in Orange County, Palmer said.

About 25 formerly homeless men from the Rescue Mission's shelter in Santa Ana helped raise the walls. They also had cleaned and prepared the construction site on Thursday.

"There's a lot of people I know back at home who could use this kind of housing," said Clarence Fields, 36, who used to live in Hackensack, N.J.

"I can look at my kids and see the kids that will be helped," Fields said. He said he has three daughters and two sons in New Jersey living with their mother. Fields said he sought shelter last August at the Rescue Mission after he lost his job as a mover because of drug use.

About $1.4 million in material and labor was donated for the new shelter by HomeAid, a nonprofit corporation started by the Building Industry Assn. of Orange County.

At the frame raising were workers of about 20 building companies who have helped or plan to donate help with plumbing, concrete, air conditioning, fire sprinklers, landscape architecture and other aspects of the construction.

"I think it's a great cause," said Tom Lucas, as framers and carpenters from his Rancho Santa Margarita-based Lucas & Mercier thrust up the wooden frames around him. Workers in his company will donate about 100 hours to the shelter's construction, he said.

Tom Rhodes, president of TWR Enterprises Framing, in Corona, said he was proud to work on the project, though he doesn't know any homeless women or children. "You don't have to know any of them to know it's a good cause," he said.

Orange Mayor Gene Beyer and council members Fred L. Barrera and Joanne Coontz attended the ceremony before the construction began.

"It's good to see this project done without government interference," Beyer said. The shelter is privately funded.

The building sits on a quiet residential section of Lemon Street. After an hour of hoisting and banging, Gerard Murillo, a meat cutter who lives across the street, came out to watch the building go up.

"I think it's very good because it's for the homeless," he said. "Just this morning I came out, and the building is almost done. It looks beautiful."

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