Shelter hits milestone
by Sam Matthews
Apr 26, 2013 | 2608 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Family shelter 25th anniversary
Armenia Pereira, (left) director of McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter, and head cook, Nellie Mancuso, discuss the meal plan for the shelter at 757 A St. on Tuesday, April 23. The shelter is celebrating 25 years in Tracy with an open house on Tuesday, April 30. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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It was 25 years ago this month — in April 1988 — that McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter had an open house to mark its opening.

A quarter-century later, Tracy’s shelter for the homeless is opening its doors again to celebrate its anniversary.

The open house will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at the same location as the original event — 757 A St.

Tours of the public areas and guest rooms will be given and refreshments will be served, according to Armenia Pereira, the facility’s director.

“We’re proud to show the public what we as a community have accomplished, and continue doing so,” she said. “To assist families who find themselves without a place to live.”

Pereira said she and other staff members will explain how the facility is operated and what services have been offered to thousands of homeless people.

In 2012, the shelter served 411 people, including 248 children.

For a time, only women and children were taken into the shelter, but that policy was changed to also accommodate families with both parents.

McHenry House can accommodate seven families at a time. When they arrive, adults are required to take drug tests, and if they are found to be drug- or alcohol-dependent, they are enrolled in Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous programs.

Families live in the main building at the corner of Ninth and A streets for eight to 10 weeks. Breakfasts, sack lunches and dinners are provided, and families eat at their own tables.

Children, often provided clothing, are enrolled in school within three days and take part in mandatory evening study hours with volunteer tutors.

Adults, if unemployed, must seek jobs and save 90 percent of their wages to pay bills and finance first- and last-month’s rent for a future permanent residence.

Staff members assist residents in contacting public-service agencies and employment contacts.

“We are unique as a homeless shelter in offering — and requiring residents to take part in — a variety of services aimed at getting them back on their feet and into permanent housing,” Pereira said. “We work cooperatively with Tracy Interfaith Ministries, Boys and Girls Club and other public and private people-helping groups.”

Pereira stressed that community volunteers, including high school students, are vital to making the shelter’s program work within its $300,000 annual budget.

Vince Marchini, president of the McHenry House board of directors, said the small but active board plans and carries out a series of fundraisers to augment grants and donations.

“The city of Tracy has been really supportive,” he said, “providing federal block grant funds and other grants and materials.”

An ongoing source of support is a secondhand store at 619 Central Ave., Helping Hands Emporium, which is run by McHenry House volunteers headed by Barbara Fitzpatrick. Last year, it generated $50,000. The storefront is provided free of charge by the Cose family.

Annual fundraisers include a dinner-dance, Fourth of July fireworks sales, Kids in a Box, a yard sale and a holiday home tour. Money from the United Way Tracy Community Council and Alex Spanos Super Bowl drawing also generate funds for McHenry House.

The money, he said, has enabled McHenry House continue renovating its main house and purchase two adjacent houses on West Ninth Street, which are used to generate rental income, and a house on A Street that holds administrative offices.

• Contact Sam Matthews at 830-4234 or

At a glance

• WHAT: McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter 25th anniversary open house

• WHEN: 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 1

• WHERE: McHenry House main building, 757 N. A St.

• INFO: Armenia Pereira, director, 835-2328
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