$5 on Home Loan Payment Aids California's Homeless

Based on early success with a small California thrift, Shelter Now is hoping to enlist other institutions in its program to aid the homeless.

The thrift, Redlands Federal Bank, reported an encouraging response to a mailing last year in January that asked homeowners to help the homeless.

2% Response

Redlands, which has $830 million in assets and 15 branches in the Riverside-San Bernardino area, asked mortgage holders to add $5 or more to each of their monthly home loan payments. The funds are handed over to Shelter Now, a nonprofit group based in Upland that funnels money to shelters and other programs for the homeless -- especially those that deal with children.

The initial mailing generated a 2% response, or 114 contributors. The participants donate an average of $6.92 a month to the program. Though that amounts to only $9,000 a year, Shelter Now sees real growth opportunities.

Century Federal Savings, a Pasadena thrift with $1 billion in assets and 18 branches, has agreed to join the program. Redlands and County Federal will both mail appeals to mortgage customers late this summer.

Shelter Now hopes to approach some of the state's largest banks soon, said president Dick Bunce. The group is also discussing ways to involve bank depositors in the fund-raising efforts, he said.

Federal regulators look favorably on the Shelter Now program as part of a bank's activities under the Community Reinvestment Act, said Ron Ruhl, assistant vice president at Redlands.

"Our main emphasis is to provide housing," he said. But "we just had our exam, and the [Office of Thrift Supervision] thought it was a great idea."

Shelter Now emphasizes providing funds to community groups that are trying to integrate homeless families back into the mainstream, Mr. Ruhl said. For example, it provides vouchers for licensed child care, thus enabling parents at one shelter to work. In another program, it sponsors a loan fund that families can tap to pay bills in an emergency.

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