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Committee lays out strategy for homeless

Committee lays out strategy for homeless

The Turlock Homeless Action Committee revealed their strategy to address homelessness in Turlock.


POSTED March 9, 2010 11:41 p.m.
Homelessness has long been at issue in the City of Turlock, with the down and out left with few options but illegally camping in public spaces. But a new proposal, drafted by the Turlock Homeless Action Committee, offers the first comprehensive strategy to address homelessness in the city’s history.
The proposal is the result of a year and a half of work within the THAC. According to the diverse membership, ranging from Chamber of Commerce representatives to pastors and homeless service providers, the THAC has come a long way since their tentative first meetings in October of 2008.
“It was a learning experience for all of us individually,” said Barbara Bawanan, Director of the United Samaritans Foundation. “We are a diverse group with one goal, but who saw the issue of homelessness through different mindsets.”
A decision was reached to pursue a “continuum of care” approach, offering support to the homeless at all stages in their journey back to being housed. A temporary shelter – “A necessary step in the process,” said Jeff Woods, director of the Turlock Gospel Mission – would offer the short-term food, clothing, and roof over ones head that people need, quickly.
“If you’re on the street any more than about six weeks you end up becoming pretty numb, pretty quickly,” Woods said. “And movement (away from homelessness) is very hard.”
From there, the continuum of care suggests shelters with programs to help ease reintegration, offering job skills and social help. A transitional group house would follow, offering a more independent living situation that would still feature support, ultimately leading to traditional individual housing.
However, THAC members admitted that homelessness is a fluid situation for many people, and that some individuals may jump back and forth between alternatives as their current state allows. For some, such as the developmentally disabled, group housing may be a lasting option.
The THAC said the best move, however, was to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. The continuum of care includes the “prehomeless,” those on the brink of life on the streets.
“Obviously in our economy today, it’s tough,” said Enclave Community Church Pastor Brian Miller. “There’s a lot of people on the edge there.”
The continuum of care involves multiple service providers, all continuing to perform their current duties while acting as a group to support individuals in need. To help organize the myriad organizations’ offerings – and to provide a starting point for the homeless – the THAC strategy calls for the development of a Community Resource Center.
The center would offer referrals, track community needs, and monitor individual progress through the system for the marginally housed, the recently homeless, and the chronically homeless.
“Ultimately the goal is to help people through housing services, actual housing, employment services, and health-related issues,” said Trina Walley, Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association Executive Director.
The Resource Center would offer a central location where needs could be assessed and individuals could be directed to the right services for them. Whether someone needed rental assistance, hotel vouchers, job search assistance, or substance abuse help, the Resource Center could match the individual with help.
“It’s not just dispensing information, it’s also forming relationships,” Miller said, emphasizing the importance of personal contact in helping the homeless.
There are still many unanswered questions about the resource center, from location to funding and services offered. THAC members say the plan is still in an early state and is seeking community feedback. An attached shelter or a campus approach – offering many different types of housing in conjunction with the resource center – are still under discussion, as is the concept of using the resource center as a homeless day center.
The Turlock Homeless Action Committee expects to present an updated draft strategy during a community meeting in mid April or early May.
To comment on the strategy, contact Barbara Bawanan by mail at 220 S. Broadway, Turlock, CA 95380, e-mail barbusf@sbcglobal.net or call 668-4853.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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