WALNUT CREEK -- The Fresh Start homeless and working-poor program handed its operation off to the newly christened Trinity Center, in the same location owned by St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Trinity Avenue.

Trinity Center will provide the same services as did Fresh Start, and possibly more, according to The Rev. Sylvia Vasquez of St. Paul's.

The Trinity Center is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering a hot lunch, laundry and showers, mail service, access to phone and Internet use, counseling, job search assistance and a safe, accepting place to get off the streets.

St. Paul's will also host Walnut Creek's first communitywide Thanksgiving Dinner and a dinner dance for the benefit of Trinity Center, both on Dec. 8.

The Richmond-based Bay Area Rescue Mission is organizing the Thanksgiving meal, with support from Walnut Creek churches. The Rescue Mission is a 40-year-old nonprofit with extensive meal service experience, according Pam McGraph, co-project manager.

At Trinity Center's Nov. 1 opening, Vasquez said a separate nonprofit is being set up to run the center. In the interim, donors, volunteers and center participants can be sure contributions to the Trinity Center will go exclusively to the center. "We have a restricted account for it," she said.

There are approximately 65 homeless people in Walnut Creek, according to McGraph and other sources. "On any given Tuesday or Thursday there could be 25 or 30 people who will come to Trinity Center," McGraph said.

"Two or three years ago, I decided to no longer look away when I saw a homeless person in Walnut Creek," McGraph explained. "Since then, I have tried to help."

Ten to 15 regular volunteers work at the center. "Former Fresh Start volunteers have stayed," said Donna Colombo, interim executive director and a member of St. Paul's vestry, a committee of church elders.

Vasquez expects churches and community service groups will continue supporting the homeless through the Trinity Center, since the operation almost the same as that of Fresh Start.

Vasquez added that church leaders are studying ways to offer more services, and that the Trinity Center is open to everyone.

Prior to the recent retirement of Fresh Start volunteer managers Bill Lunghi and his wife Robin, a St. Paul's task force had begun to explore how other communities' transition people from homelessness.

"When they retired, we changed our direction toward the safety net, but we still want to focus on the larger question of how to end homelessness here through partnerships with the larger community," Colombo said.

"We are going on and hopefully in the future, rebuild (the site) with a proper kitchen more showers and a better laundry," said Vasquez, who envisions a teen center, community center and a better outreach facility on the property.

Contact Dana Guzzetti at dguzzetti10@gmail.com or call 925-202-9292.

Trinity Center
To learn more about Trinity Center, the upcoming community Thanksgiving Dinner or other upcoming events at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, go to http://stpaulswc.site.aplus.net/wordpress/ or call 925-934-2324.