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Zoning makes permanent shelter possible, but not this winter

POSTED August 16, 2011 9:30 p.m.

After years of meetings, negotiations and public workshops, the Turlock City Council at their July 26 meeting approved a zoning area where homeless shelters are allowed.

Local homeless service providers are happy that the needs of the community’s most marginalized citizens are finally getting attention, but the road to a permanent, year-round shelter is still a long one.

The Turlock Gospel Mission is, however, proceeding with plans to find a permanent home. The mission opened three years ago to provide food and shelter to homeless women and children. While its administrative offices are housed at the First Baptist Church, the mission relies on a network of local churches that open their doors to homeless women and children on a rotating schedule.

“Now that it’s (the zoning area) passed, we can now proceed with procuring a facility, or at least a property,” said TGM director Jeff Woods.

But not this winter, said Woods.

“This year we’ll continue with the meal ministry and housing of women and children at various churches around town from mid-November to the first week in April. Last year, 23 churches were involved in providing meals and 13 churches opened their facilities overnight,” he said.

Woods said he was encouraged with the creation of the zoning area — an action driven by 2007’s State Senate Bill 2, which requires all cities to create an area where shelters are allowed. Turlock did not comply, as shelters were either defined as non-permitted or required a Conditional Use Permit in each zone.

Without a zoning area, obtaining permission to open a homeless shelter would be very difficult, something the We Care men’s shelter knows all about.

We Care has operated a shelter in Turlock since 2005, when the group started running the 400 B St. Emergency Shelter. Two years ago, We Care opened an independent, men-only shelter for the first time, under a Conditional Use Permit.

The shelter, located at 219 B St., currently houses 34 men from Dec. 1 to March 31. We Care is not currently looking to move into a larger building, according to operations manager Maris Sturtevant, but the shelter is hoping to get approval to house more guests at its present location. The shelter’s ultimate goal is to eventually be open more months out of the year.

“The zoning makes it simpler for us to do these things,” Sturtevant said.

The newly-created zone is generally bounded by Lander Avenue on the west, A Street on the northwest, S. Center Street on the northeast, and F Street on the southeast. A peninsula stretches from that zone south along Lander to Linwood, and another peninsula travels southeast five blocks between Golden State Boulevard and First Street. The zone includes no residential or downtown core areas.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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