Temecula’s only homeless shelter to close; manager determined to reopen in new location

The only full-time homeless shelter in the Temecula Valley will close its doors today. The shelter opened in a former church during heavy winter storms last year. It was supposed to be temporary, and the city of Temecula wants it closed.

The shelter’s founder is promising to reopen somewhere else.

Anne Unmacht swings open the doors to the shelter’s main dorm – actually the sanctuary of an old church on one one of Temecula’s busiest thoroughfares.

Unmacht gave up a lucrative career in real estate 15 years ago to run the faith-based nonprofit now trying to establish the Valley’s first full-time homeless refuge.

“Since we’ve opened here, we’ve had over 300 different guests that we’ve served," says Unmacht. "The vast majority – 85 to 90 percent – come from right here in the Temecula-Murrieta Valley.”

For almost six months, Unmacht kept the doors of the shelter open with the help of area churches and donations of food, clothes and cash. But the city says Unmacht doesn’t have the permits needed to run a full-time shelter.

It ordered Unmacht to shut down or face daily thousand dollar fines and forced eviction. That’s when a team of local businessmen stepped in to help find and renovate a new space.

“And I just, boy was I a damsel in distress that was so relieved and delighted," says Unmacht. "They are now negotiating for a building and will be within the zoning where hopefully we can do it without the big fanfare of the public hearings and all of that. Everybody realizes now, we gotta have a shelter down here. That’s what’s been concluded from all of this.”

But even if the new site is secured, Unmacht says it could take up to six months to renovate. In the meantime, volunteers are scrambling to place residents in motel rooms, apartments and in shelters outside the area.

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