For years, Stanislaus County’s Community Assessment Response and Engagement (CARE) teams have been working to help Turlock’s homeless community get the resources they need to get off the streets. Soon, a Turlock CARE office will open, allowing the CARE team to respond in a timelier fashion and focus solely on Turlock issues, according to CARE manager Raul Dominguez.
“Our goal is not to judge them, but to determine how we can help them get out of this situation,” said Dominguez.
The CARE program got started in 2018 with the goal to help the people who were most distressed in the community. The program looked at homeless individuals who were having the most interactions with police “for quality-of-life issues like illegal camping” to address these issues and provide people with services.
“The idea is that the CARE team is designed to help you and get you resources,” said Dominguez. “We’re here to help get you out of homelessness, deal with substance abuse issues, mental health issues and stuff like that. If you don’t want to accept our help, you’re still going to have to deal with the police department.”
Local police departments refer individuals who have frequent interactions with law enforcement due to these issues, to the county Sheriff's department. From there the CARE team provides resources to help get that individual out of their situation. In the four years since its exception, the CARE team has helped about 250 individuals, according to Dominguez.
One of those clients was Brad, who admitted to having a drinking problem. And, after losing his wife and son in a fatal car accident, he left home, developed a substance abuse issue and experienced homelessness. Through the help of the CARE team, he was able to address his substance abuse issue and get back on a positive track. He eventually received a phone call from Tesla and was offered to drive the first electric truck on their fleet.
“I go to their interview, and I’m sitting in front of this man that answers to the name of Elon Musk, and he has paperwork that clearly states he’s offering me $120,000 a year to stay on this program,” said Brad.
To view Brad’s full story, visit Stanislaus County Probation’s YouTube page.
The CARE team has mental health clinicians and behavioral health specialists on the team to help with mental health issues and crises. There is also a substance abuse counselor to help access if a client is willing to go through substance abuse counseling and then help them find a treatment center.
The team also provides assistance in signing up for benefits such as CalFresh and Medi-Cal, as well as acquiring a primary care physician to access preventive care. They also offer transportation to doctor appointments and COVID-19 vaccinations. Finally, they also have peer navigators, who have lived the clients’ experiences and help navigate them through the program.
“A lot of what we do is figuring out what the barriers are from progressing out of homelessness, and helping break down those barriers,” said Dominguez.
One of the most difficult parts of the program is having clients return for appointments. Dominguez said that people who are homeless are very mobile and don’t stay at one place too long, therefore it’s important to build a relationship and gain that trust.
The team is expanding and bringing in more staff to meet the demand. Right now, there are teams stationed in Modesto and Turlock, and they are hoping to expand into more cities in the county.