FREMONT, CA (KPIX) — A mother and her son were on a waitlist for a homeless shelter for 18 months and once they got in, they were kicked out eight months later due to a mental health outburst.
“I was told I had an hour to get my belongings and be out of here,” Tanya Schwenk said. Schwenk and her 28-year-old son were kicked out of Sunrise Village Shelter in Fremont at the beginning of October.
“When I came here, I had so much hope and when I left, I had none,” Schwenk said.
Schwenk and her son lost their permanent home two years ago to an eviction and since then they’ve been couch surfing. It took 18 months to get off waitlists and into a shelter. They were at Sunrise Village for eight months, then her son, who has mental health issues, had an outburst that led to them getting kicked out.
“Why wouldn’t you sit down and try to figure out how to help these people rather than just throwing them both out on the street, with no resources and no help?” she said.
Schwenk says after they were kicked out, her son took off and she hasn’t seen him since Oct. 1.
“I haven’t been there to make sure he takes his medication, so that’s an issue. I don’t want him to get caught up in the mental health hospitals or jails from wandering around homeless,” Schwenk said.
Louis Chichoine is the CEO of Abode Services, which operates Sunrise Village, and he says staff and other clients felt threatened by Schwenk’s son.
“The distinction is we need you to be the best you can be. You can’t cross these lines,” Chichoine says. One of those lines is making other people feel as though their safety is at risk.
Chichoine says about once a month, they experience similar incidents. “You have to manage it in a way that makes it acceptable for everyone, sometimes it doesn’t work…it’s very difficult,” he said.
Schwenk and her son were offered permanent housing, but turned it down because she didn’t think she could afford it long term.
“It is sad to see people turn down options. Of the frustration in this job, that’s the hardest,” Chichoine said.
“I said, ‘No, I can’t in nine months, I will be homeless again once it goes back to the normal market rate. I will be going through this all over again and I don’t want to do that,’” Schwenk said.
Chichoine says he sees this story as a failure of resources, an inadequate supply of housing options and shelter beds for those in crisis. Oftentimes the shelter is the end of the line, so he has nowhere to send people if they cannot stay and the wait for another spot at another shelter is extremely long.
“It’s a lot of demand. It can easily be up to six months,” Chichoine said.
After cycling through the system for two years, Schwenk says she’s worse off than where she started. She’s running out of goodwill with friends and needs to bring her son home, even if that means sleeping on the street.
“The weather’s been getting colder, it’s not summer time, but I am thinking about getting a tent and some sleeping bags so that me and my son can be, you know, together, and I can watch over him, even if I had to stay outside. I’d rather be outside with my son than not know where he is,” Schwenk said.
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