Editor's Note: During the HOME Campaign, Public Affairs will run a series of articles about Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees who volunteer for various nonprofit agencies.
For the past 15 years, Dan Knight, Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s deputy associate director for Engineering, Operations, has devoted his time and resources to Shepherd’s Gate, a nonprofit organization providing a vital safety net for the Tri-Valley’s homeless population.
Since its founding in 1984, the faith-based nonprofit, which has campuses in Livermore and Brentwood, has given more than 11,000 women and children who have become homeless due to poverty, addiction or domestic violence,the hope of turning their lives around.
“The thing about Shepherd’s Gate is that it’s a high-quality endeavor,” Knight said. “You go on the grounds, you see the facilities, you observe the interactions and you can tell they strive to treat the women and children there with dignity. Many of the women come from abusive situations where they are continually told that they are worthless. Shepherd's Gate is significantly different in that it honors the people as human beings, worthy of the highest quality care.”
What makes Shepherd’s Gate unique, Knight said, is that it offers not just transitional housing, but also helps its clients find work and provides drug and alcohol recovery and rehabilitation programs, medical care, parenting classes, child care and education resources.
“The mission of Shepherd’s Gate is to meet the practical, emotional and spiritual needs of women who are suffering from domestic violence, addiction or homelessness and their children,” said the nonprofit’s marketing coordinator Sarah Madsen. “It’s not just a shelter, it’s a holistic program that recognizes that every woman is different. We really look into each individual story and address the underlying causes of poverty, addiction and abuse while providing case management and services to get them back on their feet.”
Knight first got involved with Shepherd’s Gate through his church, where he met Steve and Carla McRee. The McRees took over as directors of the organization in 1996. Knight said he was immediately impressed by the couple’s dedication to the cause and holistic approach to helping some of the area’s most vulnerable people. Knight joined the nonprofit’s board in 2000 and served as board president from 2003-2008. He continues to do volunteer work for the organization.
“Dan Knight was an incredible asset to the board and served as an officer of the board many times over a 15-year period of time,” said Shepherd’s Gate Executive Director Steve McRee. “I found Dan to be a man of the highest integrity who was not in the least afraid to redirect me as CEO, or other board members if necessary. Dan showed strong abilities in strategic planning and in leadership. He tempered everything he did with an appropriate and quite funny sense of humor. I am quite certain Dan took his role on the board every bit as seriously as his position at the Laboratory. Dan served willingly with an attitude of grace and is a man of great faith. He is one of my closest friends and he always will be.”
For women who are homeless because of domestic violence, addiction or poverty, Shepherd’s Gate offers a long-term 12-18 month residential program called Road to Freedom. The program includes case management, recovery, counseling, life skills classes, job skills training, Bible studies,and child care, giving women the opportunity to recover from trauma and addiction and regain self-sufficiency.
The Livermore campus, which has two residence halls and five, two-bedroom cottages, also provides sober working women a six-month residential program to allow them a stable and secure place to live while they work toward independence.
“We’re the organization that stands in the gap between women and children in need and the system as it is, and finds out what they need to become healthy members of society,” Masden said. “And it works: 89 percent of our graduates do not return to the addiction, homelessness or abuse they left behind.”
Knight said Shepherd’s Gate’s astounding success rate is a testament to the nonprofit’s impact on the community.
“It was stunning then, and it still is,” Knight said. “It’s vital (to the community). It needs to be bigger. The biggest frustration is that they’ll get phone calls all the time from people who need shelter that night and there’s so many times they’re at capacity and not able to take in somebody.”
Shepherd’s Gate, a participant in the Lab’s HOME campaign, does not accept government funding, relying entirely on donations and grants to stay afloat. The organization also has a thrift store in Livermore that is open to the public but also helps provide women in need with essentials. Any profits made through the store goes back into the program, Madsen said.
Currently, Shepherd’s Gate has room for up to 70 people at its Livermore campus and up to 25 in Brentwood.