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Salvation Army Message: We're Not Leaving

Three shelters will close in August, but other services remain in Watsonville.

It's been a week since the announced it will close three of its four homeless shelters in Watsonville and there's one message the longtime community organization is trying to get out: it's not leaving the Pajaro Valley. 

"We want to reassure the community that Salvation Army is not leaving Watsonville. It's been hear for over 120 years," said Laine J. Hendricks, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army.

The Watsonville shelters are looking at a $200,000 shortfall this year and about a $1 million overall deficit.

"It was a financial decision because the [Watsonville] shelters are facing a deficit we're unable to make up," Hendricks said. "...One of the reasons we did this was to make Salvation Army more self-efficient."

The Salvation Army office in Watsonville is a squat, serious-looking building across from the police station on Union Street. For decades, people in need have turned to the local office for help with meals, housing, rent, utilities and more.

Though the shelters are being mothballed Aug. 15, seven other services will continue to be offered at the facility. Daily, breakfast and dinner is served to 90 to 120 patrons, there are showers to use and a church. The family services program gives families two bags of groceries every week; 60,000 to 80,000 pounds of food are distrubuted from the food pantry there annually.

"We're trying to help these people have a better life," said Capt. Demetrio Villarreal, who took command of the Watsonville facility a year ago.

The three shelters that will close have 50 beds dedicated for single me, single women and mothers with children.

"The clients, they accepted the news very smooth and quiet," Villarreal said.

The Salvation Army is reaching out to groups such as , , United Way and others to find other housing options for clients. 

Five employees also will be laid off as a part of the restructuring, Villareal said.

"We love the people of this community," Villareal said. "It's very hard for us to come to the conclusin that we have to close this place."

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