The RH Community Builders campus in Southwest Fresno wrapped up its first shelter season at the end of February. It has provided a safeguard for Fresno families in dire need of a warm place to stay. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

published on March 3, 2020 - 1:19 PM
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Faith Breeze found out in the fall that she and her three sons had lost their home and had to move.

They had a house, but according to Breeze, unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances prevented them from moving in.

“We were to supposed to have the house in October,” Breeze said. “But there were some situations with the house — they had to totally refurbish it.”

The Breeze family stayed in motels until their savings ran out, at which point they turned to the Fresno Rescue Mission. However, they’ve been able to stay at RH Community Builders’ Emergency Winter Warming Shelter for the last two months.

RH opened the shelter in December 2019, and within 96 hours, the 77-bed facility was at full capacity — this included the Breeze family, who moved in about two days after it opened. Until last summer, the center had been the site of the Comprehensive Addiction Program (CAP), Inc. campus in Southwest Fresno before losing its licensure.

According to Katie Wilbur, executive director for RH Community Builders, the organization formally began around the same time, founded in cooperation with Wayne Rutledge (CEO) and Brad Hardie (president). Their aim was to help CAP reopen the facility, but in the long wait to receive their licensure from the state, Wilbur said the three of them had an idea.

“That was really what drove us to open this,” Wilbur said. “Knowing that it was wet and cold this time of year and that we had these 77 beds that were warm and dry.”

Hardie and Rutledge fronted the money — a little over $100,000 — to open the warming shelter. Wilbur and Hardie further explained that RH Community Centers is a sort of marriage of different passions and lines of work. More specifically, Wilbur worked in social services, while Hardie and Rutledge work in the housing industry as landlords over multiple properties. They now seek to use their private sector knowledge to help the community at large.

“We have a passion for coming up with solutions,” Hardie said. “So we’re doing more and more. There’s a big need and we like it.”

Breeze was among the people helped and while the warming shelter will close up at the end of February, she says that’s all the time she needs — she can move into her house when it’s all over. Meanwhile, she’s been grateful, especially when she considered where she and her sons might be otherwise.

“In the car,” she said. “We’d be sleeping in the car.”

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