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Shelter expansion made possible through SB2

POSTED January 31, 2012 7:21 p.m.

Turlock's homeless now have a few more beds to call home.

We Care Foundation, which operates a winter shelter for homeless men, has increased its capacity from 34 beds to 38 beds, with overflow capacity for as many as 49 homeless Turlockers.

Though the shelter had operated with 34 beds for the past three years, more beds were needed, according to Jan Tucker, We Care Foundation executive director.

“There is a need when we have these really cold nights and it's wet outside,” Tucker said. “There is a need for our increased capacity.”

On Monday night, We Care served 43 homeless guests. Since the capacity upgrade, the shelter has hit a high capacity of 47.

Though a need has existed for some time, the We Care shelter's capacity was previously limited by the facility's conditional use permit. Those city permits grant shelters and businesses the authority to operate, but set certain conditions on operations.

But in July, the Turlock City Council approved a zoning overlay where shelters are allowed to open and operate without discretional permits. That zone's creation was required by 2007’s State Senate Bill 2, which forced all cities to create an area where shelters are allowed by right.

We Care applied for a new city permit, showing its existing South Broadway shelter complied with SB2 regulations – and was already located inside the new zoning overlay. Following approval, the shelter was able to expand its offerings.

“Having that zoned predetermined really opened up what we could do,” Tucker said.

The transition has gone smoothly, Tucker said, but with the new beds come new needs. The shelter is seeking blankets and linens to outfit the new beds, and towels, sweats, coats, pajamas, and other clothing for the new guests.

Also, the shelter is in search of additional monetary donations to allow it to complete its planned winter run, through March 31.

Should the year hold true to form, those donations will likely come through.

Already this year, volunteers from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints painted the shelter, inside and out. A local computer specialist helped set up a computer lab. Groups from Crossroads Church and the Psi Chi Fraternity at California State University, Stanislaus cleaned and organized the shelter. Quilts were donated by Gotcha Covered and the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

Hundreds of community members have volunteered to purchase, cook, and serve dinner each night. The task has become so popular, the rest of the season has been booked, and We Care is now accepting requests to serve Saturday and Sunday breakfasts.

Public safety officers have volunteered their own time to help with guest intake. And a social worker will soon offer on-site case management services, one day a week.

“We've had a real outpouring of good will,” Tucker said. “In times like these, when money is scarce, people still want to give.”

To contact We Care Foundation, or to make a donation, visit wecareturlock.org or call 664-2003.

We Care Foundation will host an open house at its 221 S. Broadway location from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on March 3. The open house will feature a presentation, past-client speakers, statistics, and refreshments.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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