“The second you enter our gates, you’re no longer homeless. You’re home.”
Yucca Valley, CA – The River Don Sanctuary Homeless Support is an impressive name. The people behind the 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organizations are an impressive group who think outside the box to providing a shelter for area residents to overcome addiction and/or homelessness.
Its rainmaker is River Don. The homeless sanctuary is location in Paradise Valley area in Yucca Valley where the shelter is an all voluntary, faith-based shelter. They do not receive government assistance. Since his 1973 discharge from the military, River has dedicated his life to helping the homeless.
In 2009 River obtained a fictitious business license, and he incorporated The River Don Sanctuary Homeless Shelter to officially become a non-profit charitable organization with business offices located in Old Town, 55690 29 Palms Highway, Yucca Valley.
From an early age River was destined to be an advocate for the homeless. It was his calling. And he has been doing it for 41 consecutive years.” God tugged at my heart strings and I knew I must help all those in need.”
He learned the skills he has today in San Diego from helping the less fortunate and homeless. Those early skill and experiences has paid off. River now operates and manages an effective and tightly run shelter for the homeless.
Early on as a child River’s mother would scold him for taking food from the house to feed the homeless in his neighborhood. His mother would tell him they needed that food for their family’s own hard times. With a smile on his face, Don explained “I did it anyway.”
He sheltered families and homeless folks in San Bernardino for a long while, having run two shelters in the Inland Empire. In 2006 he moved to Yucca Valley and has maintained what he says is a low key shelter facility. “Since 2009 we have 266 success stories.” “People find jobs and get back on their feet.”
Dawn Rowe, Mayor of Yucca Valley, extended a helping hand to River and the Shelter before she was elected to the Town Council. River explained: “She was a great supporter. We’ve had lunch many times and she came over many times and she helped with problems, and give us moral support. Rowe provide wheelchairs, walkers, and refer people who donated. But then, “She turned on us after we helped her get elected”
“We went all out and got lots of votes for her because she was helping us and was part of out team.” Now, however, River is disappointed with Dawn Rowe. “After we got the vote out for her, she abandoned us. “We helped her get elected but now she just says we are illegal.”
The town and its many businesses have been very kind to the Homeless Sanctuary. Sabrina Reality has been very supportive in helping the shelter to secure its offices in old Town Y.V. and its corporate homeless shelter facilities in Paradise Valley.
River laminates “People send those in need to our shelter. Former Mayor and present City Councilman of 29 Palms, Jim Harris, has brought lots of people here.” “The police have even dropped people off here.”
Gregg Imus — candidate for California’s 8th Congressional District — “Is behind our Shelter 100%.” He came over here to visit us, and returned with his wife and son for another visit.”
Lou Gerhardt, esteemed local minister, columnist and humanitarian has given his blessing to River, the Shelter and its residents.
An official with the HDWD provided the shelter with much needed mattresses.
River said they have had a few problems with Code Enforcement. “They make up stuff.” He said “Code Enforcement” has been against me since day one. The neighborhood can be trashed and they get me for a cigarette butt.”
River said that CE had singled him out in the neighborhood while overlooking the same sort of concerns visible in other parts of the neighborhood. The Shelter has been given notice letters — thrown over their fence — for vehicles, parking, putting up a gate and alleged junk.
The Shelter’s corporate bus (butane fueled) is temporarily broken down. The bus is the workhorse vehicle for the sanctuary’s activities. The Shelter relies heavily on the bus for, among other things, its aggressive recycling activities, essential to producing income for the Shelter. The Shelter recyclables include CRV aluminum, plastic, glass, electronics items, wire, shell casings, scrap metal, newspapers, cardboard, refrigerators, and much more.
Hank Gaskil, the Shelter’s Recycling Manager, explained that “Every one at the shelter pitches in to help in our [huge] community recycling efforts,” including helping with house maintenance, chores, securing food and the likes. River said that “If someone has a family pet, they are accepted along with the family.” Hank elaborates “We recycle from local businesses and pickup donations from all over; very few businesses say no.”
The Shelter’s weekend Manager, Brenda Kindseth, explains that her job is to make sure the chores are done and the Shelter is running smoothly.
The Shelter has a zero tolerance for breaking the rules. Hopefully are required to sign a Management Agreement before they are accepted into the Homeless Sanctuary, to which includes a mandatory weekly meetings.
River said, “We have a welcome home and it is run with honor and dignity where residents get three square meals a day.” Those residents with income and jobs help with the expenses. Residents whom have no income or job are paid a stipend for work they do to keep the Shelter viable and running.
River and his family contribute their entire family income into managing and operating the Sanctuary.
River has a wife and a 14 year old son. The entire family is committed to and engaged in the endeavor to make a happy home for Shelter residents through Christianity.
Mary Mollygan, Vice President of the Homeless Shelter, said “We work with Panorama Ranch and they refer people to us when they have no place else to go.” Adding, “We are the only homeless shelter in the Morongo Basin.” Mary remarked — “At one time many more businesses [and non-profit organizations] use to help the shelter but by 2011-12 many of those have closed down.”
“Earthwise Organic store in YV donates bags and bags of vegetables,” River explains. Many of those vegetables are grown locally at Earthwise Organic Farm in Joshua Tree.
Wayne Nelson, a resident at the Shelter and the official corporate teacher/educator. ”Wayne said, “I taught at the Morongo Basin School District in 29 Palms from 1984 to 2009. Wayne conducts classes, provides remedial schooling, helps residents write letters, and teaches reading, writing, phonics, and life skills to shelter residents.
Wayne holds a BA and Masters degree in education. He scribes stories for some of the residents about their life history. Don expresses his gratitude to the Shelter: “They took me in and gave me food, shelter and love. We are family here (and the food is awesome).”
Wayne attends the Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel where, he hastens to add, “The minister has been very supportive.”
So-called Homeless Diane, who last winter during the big freeze was a huge community concern because she was living under blankets out in the open near the Visitors Center. Town Manager, Mark Nuaimi, paid her a visit in a cold field along Hwy 62. Town officials and concerned citizens were alarmed for her safety. River took her in. “She gained weight, and the voices in her head were gone,” said River.
River boasts that “When their residents leave the shelter they go to jobs and they go to their own homes.” One of the residents exclaimed ”When I walked in here it saved my life!” River Don said “Residents have regular days off and “visitors are always welcome.”
Don estimates that he “has helped 10,000 people over the years.”
The Shelter Sanctuary also relies on monetary donations.
River Don, President / CEO
Business Offices: 55690 29 Palms Highway, Yucca Valley
Office Telephone: (760) 820-1145
We accept donations
Incoming search terms:
- kids raising hands
- yucca valley homeless shelter
- homeless shelters in yucca valley ca
- Is it illegal to panhandle in apple valley ca
- Morongo basin homeless shelter
- womens shelter yucca valley