Mary’s Village Offers Hope for Homeless
By Dianne Anderson
Deep in the heart of need in the city of San Bernardino, a new facility for homeless men is set to provide a way back to reclaim something that many have lost along the way.
“We give them their dignity back and we get them back to being productive parts of society. If they need some type of rehabilitation for drugs or alcohol, we help them with that,” said Terry Kent, who is on the Board of Directors for Mary’s Mercy Center.
Once accepted into Mary’s Village Transitional Housing program, the men will be assessed for their needs, such as a GED or rehabilitation. The program also works closely with local community colleges for continuing education, to get them trained for employment, or pursue a field of their own interest.
At the facility, 85 beds of transitional housing will be provided through the long term program, which typically runs 18-24 months.
Mary’s Village is located on ten acres at 256 S. Artesian Avenue in San Bernardino. Their approach is modeled after their nearby Veronica’s Home, a 110-bed shelter for women. Although their nonprofit is Catholic-based, Kent said they are a separate entity and not owned or operated by the Catholic Church.
“It is designed to get the gentlemen educated and to deal with whatever issues that got them to where they are today,” he said.
The men will come to the housing program in a variety of ways, through recommendations, or word of mouth, and will go through a vetting process to determine that they are committed to changing their lives.
From the beginning, Kent has been extensively involved as the project’s volunteer builder captain. He is vice president of operations with Crestwood Communities, which has built the four buildings that are now complete.
“They are staffing it at this point with hopes of opening up in the next 60 to 120 days. This COVID thing is a little bit troublesome, but we are working our way through it,” Kent said.
The project cost $8 million, of which over $7.3 million came from their long term partner, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, who also helped with their women’s shelter in operation for over 20 years.
“We’re very humbled by their donation,” Kent said. “San Manuel has been extremely supportive of the project, and has committed to future phases. They are part of the community, and they are there to help us do what we do.”
The four buildings are identical in size with different configurations, totaling about 28,000 square feet. Phase 1 is now complete after about 18 months since the city approved the project.
Like many homeless providers, he is concerned about ways of providing critical services while adhering to coronavirus safety constraints. The program is working on a comprehensive safety plan.
“That’s why we have not put anybody into the building yet until we have a full plan in place. We’re working on that and very cognizant. We’re taking every precaution there is, to make sure that when we finally get the gentlemen in there that we adhere to everything necessary to keep it COVID free,” he said.
Because the local demand is always so great, chances are the beds will fill up fast when the facility opens. Given the current economy, he doesn’t think the numbers of homelessness will go down anytime soon.
The program moves forward with the hope of Father Michael Barry, chairman of Mary’s Mercy Center, who envisions a time when homeless centers are no longer needed.
“We will do our best to do our part to help deal with the situation. As Father Mike has always said, the best of our life is when we’re put out of business because no one needs our services. We’re just working toward that day,” he said.
The last Point In Time count for San Bernardino County revealed a stark 20% increase over the prior year with 518 more persons counted in 2020. Among the findings, there were 470 more persons unsheltered in 2020 compared to unsheltered in 2019, representing an increase of 24.5%.
Of the cities in the county, San Bernardino took the brunt of homelessness, representing 823 unsheltered. The count found that nearly one-third (30.4%) of adults and children were Hispanic or Latino. African Americans, at 21.4%, were disproportionately represented.
To learn more about the county’s homeless services, see