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Bienestar shines again in Sunnyside

Transitional housing re-opens to the homeless

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The doors at Bienestar re-opened last month, thanks to an effort by the Yakima County Coalition for the Homeless.

Nearly six months after it was closed, Bienestar has re-opened its doors.

The transitional housing facility, located near South Hill Park in Sunnyside, was open for three years before it was closed by the Salvation Army last September due to lack of funding.

Enter the Yakima County Coalition for the Homeless, which re-opened Bienestar last month.

The coalition will assume a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant worth $69,000 in annual support.

"When you're working with grants there's never enough money," said LuPita Gutierrez-Parker, the coalition's executive director. "People think that's a lot of money," she said of the grant amount. "But that has to cover everything."

For an example of how tight the funding is, look no further than the Salvation Army, which found it needed an additional $50,000 a year to run Bienestar. "I think if we should be fine if we are careful in our planning and how we spend our money," said Gutierrez-Parker. The coalition continues to seek financial support as well as donations in the form of food and other items, such as a television for the community room.

"I can't see spending money from our budget for a TV, so I'm hoping someone will have one they can give us," Gutierrez-Parker said. "I'm planning to visit the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs in the Lower Valley to tell them about the coalition and our programs," she added. Pacific Power & Light recently provided a $5,000 grant, she said.

The coalition is still in the process of furnishing Bienestar, and is seeking donations in the form of clothing, linens and household items.

Bienestar has five rooms available for small families for a stay lasting no longer than six months. Three rooms are currently in use now, said Case Manager Isabel Villa, one of three employees planned for Bienestar.

Villa, who worked at Bienestar when it was operated by the Salvation Army, is glad to see the transitional housing facility re-open.

And not just because it means she has her job again.

"There are no other places for the homeless in the Lower Valley," Villa said. "We really need something like this here."

And, if Gutierrez-Parker has her way, the coalition will be providing more homeless services to the Lower Valley in the future.

She said there are plans to operate a computer lab at Bienestar to assist its transitional residents with job skills and access to resources.

Bienestar, which means "well being," according to Gutierrez-Parker, is just one piece of the puzzle in the coalition's plans to help the homeless in the Lower Valley.

"I want to build a permanent housing development somewhere in the Lower Valley," she said. "It (Bienestar) fits perfectly with our plans for more transitional and permanent housing in Sunnyside and Grandview."

For more information on receiving services at Bienestar, or to offer donations, make an appointment with Villa at the center by calling 837-4905.

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