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Homeless shelters close for season

POSTED April 23, 2013 10:53 p.m.

Warmer weather has finally arrived in the Valley — just in time for those who now have no option left but to sleep on the streets. The Turlock Gospel Mission's winter relief ministry for women and children and the We Care cold weather shelter for men both closed for the season last week.

TGM's winter relief gave shelter to 1,580 (99 individual women and children) over its five month season from mid-November to mid-April.  The number of guests sheltered for the season more than doubled from last year's total of 721 (representing 82 women and children).

"The economy is a factor, and then there's nowhere else for these women to go," said Cindy Noah, ministry administrator. "There's a huge gap in services for families."

TGM was able to get two women and their children into housing programs in other cities, said Noah, but the majority of the winter shelter guests are now on the streets.

"Some of these women on the streets are older, 60s to 70s; it's just sad," said Noah.

This was the first full season  that We Care was able to expand its services from 34 beds to 49 beds under Senate Bill 2, which mandates all cities create an area where shelters are allowed.

Even with the increase in capacity, We Care still had times when it had to turn people away.

"We did have to turn away 36 people," said We Care director Jan Tucker. "There were two really cold and wet periods of time when that occurred. The Salvation Army usually would have been open as a warming center, but they were hosting Turlock Gospel Mission women and children."

We Care was able to stay open an additional month this season thanks to federal funding through the Emergency Solutions Grant.

Both TGM and We Care received tremendous community support throughout the winter season.

"We were here an extra month and our community is wonderful with monetary donations and meals," said Tucker.

Both shelters rely on volunteers to provide hot meals for guests every night of the season.  We Care is permanently located at 219 S. Broadway; but the Turlock Gospel Mission winter ministry is currently a traveling shelter, where individual churches take turns hosting the women and children overnight for a week at a time.

TGM is working hard, however, to secure a permanent homeless shelter in Turlock. In 2012, TGM purchased a lot at 437 S. Broadway and is now in the process of raising enough funds to build a full time, year-round emergency shelter.

We Care has been working towards sustainable housing for the homeless population.  In 2012, the shelter received a grant to open three transitional housing units, which has helped four families so far. We Care hopes to open three to four more units in the upcoming months, said Tucker.

"We're that emergency shelter, but we do have housing programs. We're working to get them out of the streets into units, and as an agency, working to get them out of the streets permanently," said Tucker.

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