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Homeless meal ministry moves to day center
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A stroll before dinner can be relaxing, but Turlock's homeless have been forced to make a daily one-mile hike in search of a bite to eat.
That treacherous walk, through downtown's busiest streets and across railroad tracks, was a byproduct of the Turlock Gospel Mission's two Turlock sites.
The Turlock Gospel Mission's nightly meal ministry has long been offered from the First Baptist Church, at the corner of W. Main Street and Laurel Avenue; and since March, TGM's new Homeless Assistance Ministry, at 1030 East Ave., has offered homeless a place to be during the day.
But when the HAM closed at 5 p.m., per TGM's agreement with the city, the hungry homeless would walk to First Baptist in search of a 6 p.m. meal.
That will all change now, though, as the Turlock City Council on Tuesday approved the Turlock Gospel Mission to begin using the HAM as a meeting point for the meal ministry program, extending the HAM's hours of operation. The Turlock Gospel Mission's longstanding year-round, nightly meal ministry, offering the homeless a reliable daily meal, will now be more accessible than ever.
"When others aren't serving, we serve," Turlock Gospel Mission Pastor Tim Guerino said. "Sometimes we're the only place in town to get a meal."
The program transports homeless individuals from a central meeting point to a host church which cooks dinner. The church rotates each week, but the meeting point had remained constant: Turlock's First Baptist Church.
Since the March opening of the Homeless Assistance Ministry, the Turlock Gospel Mission lacked permission to operate the HAM past 5 p.m., leading to the nightly trek.
With the council's approval individuals may now gather for the dinner service from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on-site dinner service may be offered no more than three times per month. City staff said neighbors had been contacted about the change in hours, with no objections noted.
It's just another example of the City of Turlock working with the Turlock Gospel Mission, Guerino said.
"There's a myth out there that the city doesn't do a whole lot," Guerino said. "You guys have really stepped up."
The HAM was made possibly only by the City of Turlock agreeing to lease its former Youth Center to the Turlock Gospel Mission at a cut rate - just $1,080 per month. And that rent can be offset by improvements made to the building, many of which have been donated.
Guerino went out of his way to thank the City of Turlock for their help, and community members for the donations which have made the HAM possible.
"I'm in Oakland a lot, so trust me, this is a great city," Guerino said.


On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council also:
• Began the process of a per cart rate of $7.65 for blue, recycling-specific trash cans rented from Turlock Scavenger. Previously, there was no rate for individual recycling carts.
In 2011, new state legislation made contract recycling services mandatory for all multi-family, commercial, and industrial developments, effective July 1. As most such developments lack space for a second large, outdoor bin, they will be forced to rent smaller recycling carts to supplement their trash bins.Previously, recycling was only mandatory for single-family homes.
The ordinance amendment will return June 12 for a final reading before becoming law.
• Recognized Public Works Week, May 20-26, with a special reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The week was also noted by a council proclamation, honoring the "unsung heroes" responsible for Turlock's public works.
• Heard the 2011 Turlock Fire Services annual report.
• Issued a proclamation in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Turlock Pentecost Association's Festa Do Espirito Santo, which will be held June 3.
• Adopted an amended obligation payment schedule for Turlock's Redevelopment Successor Agency, as required by law. The schedule lists all of the former redevelopment agency's outstanding debts, and details repayment timing.
The amended payment schedule includes specific dollar amounts related to expenditures for Turlock's in-construction Public Safety Facility, which was financed in large part by the redevelopment agency. Those changes were requested by the state Department of Finance.
• Received a briefing from Andrew LaFlamme, California State University, Stanislaus director of Legislative Affairs. LaFlamme spoke about the university's new president Joe Sheley, CSU concerns regarding triggered budget cuts, and the campus' Thursday commencement.
• Heard staff update regarding improvements to the city's wastewater pretreatment program. Monitoring for significant industrial users has been upgraded, in large part, to a digital system.