CHAP hosts holiday potluck, reunion for participants

Jason Procsal would most likely still be on the street if it weren’t for CHAP. He was one of the lucky ones—he was quickly admitted into the program and given an opportunity to continue school while he was given shelter. Now he’s a college graduate and already looking forward to grad school.

“Because of them and their resources, they got me to the next step,” Mr. Procsal said.

Mr. Procsal is one of dozens of CHAP (Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program) graduates and current participants who were on hand December 7 for the annual holiday meeting, held in a basement room at Claremont United Church of Christ. Volunteers and participants (CHAP’s term for the homeless people they help) from the past two years of the program’s efforts mingled and caught up while being served food and sparkling cider.

CHAP has been reaching out to disadvantaged and homeless Claremonters since 2014. It was born out of the Occupy Claremont movement, according to co-founder Karl Hilgert. The homeless population still had nowhere to go when the tents came down, he said, and residents came together to reach out and help their underprivileged neighbors.

Initially, Mr. Hilgert said, people thought there were only three or four homeless people in Claremont.

“In the first year, they observed 50 different people in Claremont, riding the ridge between Upland and Claremont and Pomona and La Verne and San Dimas,” he said.

Mr. Hilgert, donning a Santa hat to accompany his long white beard, explained that CHAP’s early volunteers reached out to 40 of those 50 people in the first year, putting them into programs that would help them on their feet. They received shelter at the Quaker house on Harrison Avenue and given the opportunity to work.

Some of those programs include CHAP Café’s, which give participants the opportunity to earn money in places like Harvey Mudd College and Our Lady of the Assumption Church.

Some participants, such as Tom Magdzik, went from being helped by the program to helping other participants themselves. Mr. Magdzik serves as one of the overnight hosts at the Quaker building, overseeing the house between the hours of 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“I just want to give back,” he said with a smile.

Before the dinner, all participants and advocates joined in a circle, first to pray, and then to share stories and recognize those who have moved on or stayed behind to become advocates.

Throughout the meeting, participants greeted each other like old friends, catching up and sharing stories of their roads to recovery.

One participant, Nasser Abousamok, was picked up by the CHAP program. He now works at a local restaurant and attends Chaffey College.

“I don’t know, man, I just got lucky,” he said.

Mr. Procsal, through a program for veterans called New Directions, was one of the first people in the CHAP program to get his own place to live. He credits the program for helping him through the year he was there, and he is looking toward the future.

“I just want to get a job that I like that gives me satisfaction. I don’t care about money. I just want money I could live off of,” he said. “Tomorrow I’m going to buy a flash drive with my resume on it. I’m going through quite a change.”

—Matthew Bramlett


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