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Homeless prepare for shelter closures, options available

Homeless prepare for shelter closures, options available

Several homeless men sit in Central Park in downtown Turlock. At the end of this month Turlock area cold-weather homeless shelters will close but homeless have options for possible housing through ...


POSTED March 18, 2011 8:19 p.m.

About 15 months ago Turlock resident Eddie Lopez was staying at the We Care Cold Weather Shelter in downtown Turlock. Before the shelter opened he found himself with no where to stay and he was forced to spend several weeks sleeping on the streets with nothing more than a blanket.

Lopez is a no-nonsense kind of guy and he now realizes that the reason he was on the streets and sleeping at We Care was of his own mistakes and poor life decisions. But lots of people make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes can continue to spiral downward until seemingly the point of no return. But Lopez changed his life with a re-discovered faith, help from the We Care program and assistance for housing from the Stanislaus County Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program .

By the end of this month, Turlock’s homeless population will have no legal shelter available in the area. The We Care Program, a temporary cold-weather men’s shelter, and Turlock Gospel Mission, a temporary shelter for women and children, will shut down until next fall.

“This is sad news for everyone. There is no place for the homeless to go now. We put them right back on the street, it’s almost criminal,” said Bill Sturtevant, We Care Executive Director.

While many homeless will go back onto the streets, some may have the opportunity to find housing through the HPRP program in Stanislaus County and the city of Turlock. The county-funded program, operated by case manager Jan Tucker, has placed about 12 homeless in housing. The HPRP helps people rebuild their life through one of the most important steps to rebuilding a life; a permanent place to live. In the past year and a half Tucker has found homes for 20 people.

The objective of HPRP is to provide temporary financial assistance, housing and life stabilization services to individuals and families who are currently homeless or would otherwise be homeless if it wasn’t for the assistance HPRP provides.

Eligible participants in the HPRP can receive up to the first month of rent free, followed by a 10 percent decrease each following month, along with help for utilities.

To be eligible for services from the county and city HPRP services a person or family must have “a documentable hardship,” explained city HPRP Case Manager Dana Culbertson. “It really comes down to a case-by-case set of assessments; causes of hardship could range from hospitalization to car-repairs. The two biggest contributors to people coming to us are unemployment and lay-offs.”

The current economic condition of the Valley is forcing a larger percentage of people who live pay-check to pay-check from permanent housing to transitional forms of shelter such as motels and friends garages or backyards. “We often see people who’ve run out of unemployment checks who for one reason or another haven’t been able to find a job. The economy has really wreaked havoc,” said Culbertson.

In the past year Culbertson has placed 125 households.

According to Sturtevant the estimated homeless population in the Turlock area hovers around 500 to 600 people, which included people in transitional forms of shelter.

“Some people may not agree with helping the homeless, and that’s fine, but we think that it is our duty to do something and help. But for the grace of god and a few paychecks away from not having a place to live. When you’re stuck in that lifestyle it can be very depressing and sometimes people just need a hand up and that’s what this whole thing is about,” said Sturtevant.

For Lopez that hand from We Care and HPRP is exactly what he needed to stabilize his life.

“I got clean, got right with god and I found We Care and Jan (Tucker). I was surprised at all the good people that came into my life and really cared and wanted to help me, it was awesome and inspiring to see. Now I’m back to living and putting down roots again,” said Lopez, who has found full-time permanent employment as a fork-lift operator at a freight terminal in town.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal.com, or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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