Pro­posal may pro­vide Tur­lock’s home­less a new, tem­po­rary place to camp

The Modesto Bee - - Front Page - BY KEVIN VALINE kva­[email protected]­bee.com

The city will talk with Tur­lock Gospel Mis­sion about let­ting home­less peo­ple camp on the non­profit’s prop­erty, which could pro­vide re­lief for the home­less who say the city is push­ing them from park to park and for the busi­nesses and res­i­dents who are tired of deal­ing with the trash and other prob­lems caused by some of the home­less.

The City Coun­cil di­rected city staff to have these dis­cus­sions at a Thurs­day work­shop to dis­cuss po­ten­tial short- and longterm so­lu­tions re­gard­ing home­less­ness.

The pro­posal is for the home­less to camp on the Gospel Mis­sion’s roughly quar­ter-acre dirt lot be­hind its shel­ter, which is in an in­dus­trial area near down­town.

Of­fi­cials stressed this would be a tem­po­rary fix and lots of de­tails need to be dis­cussed and worked out — in­clud­ing what tem­po­rary means — to de­ter­mine whether this could hap­pen.

Coun­cil­men Gil Es­quer and An­drew Nos­rati voiced sup­port for the pro­posal at Thurs­day’s meet­ing.

“We’ve been meet­ing on this (home­less­ness) mul­ti­ple times,” Es­quer said in a Fri­day in­ter­view. “We meet, we meet, we meet ... but noth­ing ever gets started. I thought it’s time to make an at­tempt to start some­place. Maybe this works, maybe it doesn’t. But let’s at least put the first foot out.”

He said this could be a way of ad­dress­ing con­cerns of res­i­dents and busi­nesses about the im­pact of some of the home­less while pro­vid­ing the home­less with a place to stay. He em­pha­sized that let­ting the home­less camp in city parks is not the so­lu­tion.

Nos­rati said Fri­day the sta­tus quo is not work­ing: “The com­mu­nity is not happy with what is hap­pen­ing now. And the home­less pop­u­la­tion is not happy.” He pro­posed at Thurs­day’s work­shop that Tur­lock go even fur­ther and look into other ar­eas of the city where the home­less could camp with­out af­fect­ing res­i­dents and busi­nesses.

Coun­cil­woman Nicole Lar­son said Fri­day the pro­posal “is a step in the right di­rec­tion in terms of find­ing an im­me­di­ate so­lu­tion, not a per­ma­nent one, to deal with this is­sue.” She thanked the Gospel Mis­sion for be­ing will­ing to en­ter­tain the pro­posal and said Tur­lock must stay fo­cused on find­ing more so­lu­tions.

Tur­lock Gospel Mis­sion Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Chris­tian Curby said Fri­day that he wel­comes the dis­cus­sions with the city.

HOME­LESS ‘DON’T KNOW WHERE TO GO’

He said he gets lots of phone calls from busi­ness own­ers and prop­erty own­ers who ask for his help be­cause peo­ple are camp­ing on their prop­er­ties and won’t leave. He said he re­cently worked with a home­less man who was camp­ing at a busi­ness be­cause the man said he did know where else to go.

“I think that’s the true sen­ti­ment of peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness,” Curby said. “They don’t know where to go. In an ef­fort to re­lieve that ten­sion and pro­vide some re­lief, we are will­ing to talk to Tur­lock.”

City of­fi­cials have es­ti­mated Tur­lock’s home­less pop­u­la­tion at about 250 peo­ple, which is roughly dou­ble the num­ber of emer­gency shel­ter beds pro­vided by the Gospel Mis­sion and the We Care Pro­gram.

The mis­sion re­cently opened its day cen­ter at night to of­fer home­less peo­ple not in the shel­ters a place to get out of the cold, have some­thing to eat and rest. But it’s not a shel­ter. The mis­sion is pro­hib­ited from putting in cots be­cause the cen­ter does not have fire sprin­klers. As many as roughly 30 home­less peo­ple, pri­mar­ily men, are us­ing the day cen­ter at night, and it has some ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity. Mayor Amy Bublak said at Thurs­day’s work­shop that the city needs to de­ter­mine how many home­less peo­ple need shel­ter and how many of them would be will­ing to camp in the lot be­hind the mis­sion’s shel­ter.

TUR­LOCK MIS­SION OPENS WARM­ING CEN­TER

Stanis­laus County is pay­ing the Gospel Mis­sion $25,000 to cover the cost of op­er­at­ing its day cen­ter as a warm­ing cen­ter Jan. 1 to March 31. Curby said county of­fi­cials told him re­cently they are in­ter­ested in look­ing at how the county could con­tinue to work with the mis­sion to help more home­less peo­ple.

Tur­lock is let­ting home­less peo­ple sleep in its parks at night — and even set up tents in bad weather as long at they come down dur­ing the day — af­ter a fed­eral court ruled in Septem­ber that it is cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment to pros­e­cute peo­ple for sleep­ing on pub­lic prop­erty when they have no other al­ter­na­tive.

But the city is en­forc­ing its or­di­nances against stor­ing per­sonal prop­erty and set­ting up camps in city parks. This has led home­less peo­ple to say the city is send­ing mixed mes­sages and push­ing them from park to park when it en­forces these or­di­nances. City of­fi­cials say that is not true.

JIM SILVA [email protected]­bee.com

The Tur­lock Gospel Mis­sion and the city will dis­cuss whether it’s pos­si­ble to let home­less peo­ple camp on this va­cant lot be­hind the shel­ter.

JIM SILVA [email protected]­bee.com

City of­fi­cials have es­ti­mated Tur­lock’s home­less pop­u­la­tion at about 250 peo­ple, which is roughly dou­ble the num­ber of emer­gency shel­ter beds pro­vided by the Tur­lock Gospel Mis­sion and the We Care Pro­gram.

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