ALMOST HOME HISTORY
During the mid-1980s, Father Jude Geilenkirchen and his secretaries Maida Fresquez and Sue Gomez began housing people nightly in the basement of St. Augustine Church. Those people were mostly migrant farmers but included families as well as single men. The church was able to serve up to 30 persons per night. Father Jude, Maida and Sue took most of the responsibility in getting people settled in for the night. The Brighton Ministerial Alliance and other area churches provided meals, bedding materials, and emotional support. In 1988, Father Jude was assigned to a new parish, and the shelter program was closed several months after his departure.
In 1992, a committee led by Joe Gomez was formed to explore the possibility of opening a new shelter. There were several difficult attempts to find a suitable location in Brighton. Almost Home, Inc., was formed as a nonprofit corporation in 1993. Rev. Richard Stratford was elected the first President, and he and Dr. Stephen Cardos created a search committee to hire a director. In 1994, Gail Brownmiller was hired as the Executive Director. Soon after, Toni Sandoval was hired as the case manager. Dr. Cardos had previously worked with Toni at a United Way Agency and knew she would be perfect for the position.
Gail’s husband, Rev. David Brownmiller, was pastor of St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church. The former parsonage, a small house at 70 S 3rd Avenue, became the first shelter for Almost Home. The house was renovated so that the upper level could be used as shelter and the ground level could be used as office space. It was in 1998 that Gail and Dick Stratford were involved in securing an anonymous donation for Almost Home of $200,000. That generosity gave Almost Home, Inc. the financial stability needed to sustain operation.
It became clear at that time that Almost Home's mission was changing. The staff and Board of Directors decided that limited emergency housing was not enough to fulfill its vision. Instead, Almost Home strived to help families get back into the housing market and restore self-sufficiency and stability to their lives. In 1999, Gail moved to Oregon when her husband was called to a new parish. Terry Moore, a Board member of Almost Home, was hired as Executive Director.