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High Desert Homeless Services in the media
High Desert Homeless Services featured on "Eye on the Community" with Jeff Daniels
Recently, High Desert Homeless Services was featured on KHIZ Channel 64. If there are problems loading the video, please click here to watch it on YouTube.
Here is an article that appeared in the Daily Press, March 11, 2010:
Making a Difference
BY NATASHA LINDSTROM, STAFF WRITER
A little more than five years ago, Robin Hardisty hit her all-time low: She'd lost her job and home and found herself in a desperate struggle to feed her five children while living out of a van.
Her climb out of poverty began when she checked into High Desert Homeless Services in Victorville and met the shelter's director, Susie Hollenbeck. Under Hollenbeck's guidance, Hardisty furiously applied for jobs and obtained clothing for interviews, completed parenting and computer literacy classes and secured much-needed glasses for one of her sons.
Now Hardisty has supported her family for more than four years through her waitressing job at Richie's Real American Diner in Victorville, without a welfare payment to her name.
"It was everything that we needed for us to get back up on our feet again and become people of society," Hardisty, 43, said. "Susie is the strongest woman of God that I've ever met. She's always positive, she always has a good outlook on things. There's always hope with Susie."
Hardisty's one of hundreds of once homeless individuals whose lives Hollenbeck, 63, has helped transform over her past decade serving as executive director of HDHS, a 55-bed facility near Palmdale and Amargosa roads offering the only full-service-homeless shelter in the High Desert. Hollenbeck's generous heart and determined spirit have helped name her one of the top 2010 Daily Press Most Inspiring Women.
"She's a person that is definitely there for all the right reasons," said Serrano High School teacher Carrie Walczynski, who brings students to volunteer at the shelter and nominated Hollenbeck for the award. "She's just really altruistic and she believes in people. She wants to be that good situation that turns their life around."
Hollenbeck lives by the philosophy that everyone deserves a helping hand, but must take personal responsibility to better themselves.
"We don't want to just be a crash pad; we're a launch pad," Hollenbeck said. "Most of the people that are in shelter here are not chronic homeless. They want to get on their feet and that's what we do, we give them an extra boost."
Clients who stay at the shelter must be drug-free, abide by strict rules and are limited to 90 days, with a possible 30-day extension. Every three days they meet with a case worker, and they're required to file at least three job applications daily.
Born in Modesto in December 1946, Hollenbeck grew up in what she called a strict but loving family, with her dad working at a cannery and her mom running a home day care.
She moved to Lucerne Valley in 1969 when doctors said the desert would be good for her mother's lungs, and she's rarely ventured away from the Victor Valley since.
"I fell in love with the desert," she said. "I remember thinking, this is John Wayne country!" She now lives in Hesperia with her husband, John Young, while her 42-year-old son, Ron Wilson, works as a concrete worker in Victorville.
In the early part of her life, Hollenbeck worked several odd jobs, from postal worker to school-bus driver. She ran a local construction clean-up business, waited tables at Newton's Outpost Cafe and ran a home day care.
After her son graduated from high school, she became a secretary at Calvary Chapel Community Church in Victorville.
"During that time is when I saw a lot of hurting people," she said. "That touched my heart."
Over nearly five years at the church, she encountered dozens of needy residents and domestic-violence victims, including one black-eyed and bruised woman who needed help so badly Hollenbeck invited the woman to stay with her for two weeks.
She found a new calling in her renewed faith and desire to help others. She sold her 1964 Ford pickup truck, cashed her income tax return and rented out her two-bedroom home in Hesperia to pay the tuition for Calvary Chapel Bible College in Twin Peaks.
"I felt I was being led to do it," she said. "I just knew that's what I was meant to do."
Shortly after earning her associate's degree in theology, Hollenbeck was selected to help lead the High Desert Domestic Violence Program. There, she developed a peer support group curriculum and mastered the art of grant writing, raking in nearly $2 million in grants to expand services. She went on to launch the outreach program Victorville City Mission, before being asked to take over High Desert Homeless Services.
When she took the helm of the homeless shelter in April 2000, the organization had two property liens and owed $19,000 in property taxes and $13,000 in payroll taxes with a balloon mortgage payment looming.
"I started frantically writing grants and doing what I thought needed to be done to keep this place going," she said. She's since raised more than $2.5 million in grants to expand the shelter, including a new state-of-the-art children's playroom, an outdoor playground, commercial stove and more. "We haven't gotten in the red since."
Vici Nagel, president of the High Desert Resources Network, credits Hollenbeck with running "one of the most stable, longest-standing organizations in the community."
"Homelessness is not an issue that's first on everybody's mind, except maybe during the holidays," Nagel said. "She's really tenacious. She keeps at it."