East Bay nonprofit help unhoused community find hope and new beginnings

MARTINEZ; Calif. -- An East Bay nonprofit, Homeless Action Coalition, is bringing hope to the homeless population in the city of Martinez.

Noralea Gipner, former city councilmember, in conjunction with local faith leaders, Martinez Police Department, and Contra Costa C.O.RE. are addressing the essential needs of people living in the homeless encampment at the Martinez Waterfront Amphitheater.

"Camp Hope is where homeless people can come and actually have hope," said Noralea Gipner, CEO of Homeless Action Coalition. "They get to learn to be a family, they get to learn to have manners again, how to get a job again, they learn to have chores, responsibilities. They have a reason to wake up in the morning. They have hope."

Homeless Action Coalition founded Camp Hope during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our goal is to help our homeless population and we are doing that," said Gipner. "Our group puts themselves out there to help the people. That is pretty big."

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Camp Hope operates in a collaborative environment and up to 30 homeless people can live in the encampment at one time. All Camp Hope residents must attend weekly meetings and are given daily chores.

Camp Hope residents are also trained by Contra Costa County Fire Department to use a fire extinguisher and use safe practices in case of an emergency.

"We are able to show that you can take care of homeless people in a small environment where they are actually taking care of themselves," said Gipner. "It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. The trick is to get your community involved and your churches involved. And it really does work really well."

Homeless Action Coalition believes in providing all humans with basic necessities. Every week, Bay Church and Contra Costa Health Services offers clothing, haircuts, showers, medical, and psychiatric assistance to homeless residents.

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The nonprofit has built a makeshift outdoor kitchen and converted a concession stand to store non-perishable and refrigerated items within the encampment.

"We have touched at least 75 homeless peoples' lives in this camp," said Gipner. "We are an example of what can be. We really want to help people come in, figure what they need, and get them going on a happy life. That is the absolute goal."

In over a year, Homeless Action Coalition has moved seventeen people into rehabilitation facilities, shared housing, and transitional housing. The nonprofit also helps their people find job opportunities and work towards living a normal life.

"It is a good stepping stone," said Mary, Camp Hope Resident. "I have run into some hard times and thank God I had this place. It is a good place to get your life together."

The Homeless Action Coalition hopes to have a permanent site in the near future to help more homeless people living in Martinez.

"I couldn't be even more proud of what we do as a group here to get our citizens off the streets and into something that they have hope for," said Gipner. "They are citizens of Martinez and they deserve to have a place to be. I am really proud that we are able to do this."

For more information or to donate to the Homeless Action Coalition, visit their website.