The Home of the Neighborly Service—a non-profit center that provides the community with dance instruction, educational classes, and food services—has been temporary closed since mid-October. It has caused discontent among residents of San Bernardino’s first ward. They say political turmoil is the cause of the situation, which has been rebuked by attorney Jim Penman—the legal adviser of the board.
The Home—which has provided services for the west side since 1922—has experienced both economic and political hardship in recent years. Its facility, located at 839 N. Mt. Vernon Avenue, was shutdown by board leadership in the summer of 2012. The board’s current president Jerry Martin told IECN back on August 1 that the Home continues to struggle from financial hardship since it lost its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from the city and other entities.
He mentioned in a phone interview late last month that two board members—
Joseph Martinez and Robert Rego—attempted to take control of the center’s leadership but failed to do so. Both Guerra and Martin said both men changed the locks of the building. The latter accused Rego and Martinez of acting in defiance of the non-profit organization’s by-laws.
“They were unsuccessful because they didn’t get the votes,” he said. “Also the by-laws don’t allow something like that to happen. Unfortunately, they have gone their own way and have tried to make their own point. They don’t have the right to do that.”
Martin strongly conveyed his conviction that he is rightfully acting in accordance with regular procedure.
“They are just a splinter board working on an unauthorized capacity,” he said.
The conflict between both factions has upset the organization’s founders the Presbytery of Riverside, according to Martin.
“They have the option to close it permanently and take the lease away,” Martin said. “It could mean the end of the Home.”
Penman explained the legitimate board (which allegedly includes Martinez and Rego) is taking steps to have the building reopened.
“Efforts are being made to reopen [the center] again with volunteers,” Penman said.
Penman did not mention Martin’s name, but did affirm that the opposing party is no longer part of the board.
He said the governing body of the Presbytery is selecting an auditor to look at the Home’s budget, which will take several months. In the meantime, the board and church officials will recruit volunteers to assist with the home.
When asked if there was any dishonest moves made on behalf of board members Martinez and Rego, Penman said it was not true—making it clear that the acting board was not involved.
“If there was any shadiness going on, it was not the board that was involved,” he said. “Our firm (Milligan, Beswick, Levine, & Knox, LLP) does not represent the board members, nor Mr. Martinez, but the board of the Home of Neighborly Services. Their desire, along with the Presbytery, is to get the home open as soon as possible. There have been a number of programs that the board has liked to see happen. However due to the dire financial strains, the agency has not been able to have paid staff to administer those programs.”
Resident Jose Guerra, who is the spokesperson of the Friends of the Home Facebook page, expressed many of the Home’s benefactors are beginning to lose faith with the organization’s leadership. On Nov. 22 he announced on social media that the center was vandalized. Photos were posted that demonstrated broken and scattered items (such as toys, cassettes, and paint).
“I lost all faith again,” he wrote. “It seems like nobody cares about what is best for the home. I guess the opinion of the instructors and volunteers doesn’t seem to matter.”
Guerra said if the Home closes for good, the ultimate losers would be the residents of the area.
“This is a low income community, and people depend on the food that is given out,” he said. “[Parents] come to workout to get away from their situations at home, and others go to the center to learn English. These people will suffer if the Home closes. The ones who will be responsible for its closure will lose nothing.”