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Shelters offer homeless a place to be off the streets

POSTED September 20, 2013 11:44 p.m.

An open letter to the Turlock community,

Given the recent concern regarding the homeless and others in our Denair Park, I felt that I should share some information with the community which may help address this problem.  I have been working with the homeless in our community for over 20 years, and I know that it can be a difficult, challenging and sometimes upsetting experience. Why? Because many of the homeless struggle with issues of severe mental health problems, addictions and other illnesses. It is also true that the number of those without homes is increasing and that some of this population has a history of criminal behavior that cannot be tolerated.  That is why it is crucial to have shelters open that are a haven for those truly in need and provide respite from those struggling with mental health challenges or addictions.

As a founding member of the We Care Program’s Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, we offer homeless adult men a warm, safe sleeping environment, out of parks and the doorways of local businesses. The We Care Shelter has provided more than 50,000 shelter beds since 2003.  Last season, 184 men were served, and more than 7,000 hot meals were provided through the generosity of local church groups, individuals and families. 

The shelter offers many supportive services: guests have access to counseling services, provided by a licensed clinician (MSW), employment/resume skills and job searches, computer lab, drug and alcohol cessation classes, notary public services, bus passes to essential services, and assistance with obtaining vital documents. 

We also offer case management-based Supportive Housing, Transitional Housing and Homelessness Prevention programs. These programs assist individuals and families to secure and maintain housing, or prevent their homelessness by assisting them in their current housing situation.  We Care has assisted 93 families – 185 individuals in all — in securing or maintaining their housing and providing supportive services to help them maintain independent and successful living. 

The We Care Program allows those truly in need an option to get off the streets, provides bathroom facilities and resource and referrals to programs and agencies that can help.  A shelter also helps law enforcement since it would no longer be a crime of necessity to sleep in the streets, behind buildings or in local parks.

As a lifelong Turlock residence, it too disheartens me that our city has to struggle with issues of homelessness but if we pull together as a community, we can find humane, realistic and livable solutions to this challenge. Currently, the We Care Program only has funding to operate for two of the five projected winter months. If you would like to know more about our shelter services please contact me or our staff for further information at 664-2003.

— Maris Sturtevant

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