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Homelessness emergency connects unhoused with vital services
Warming center open this weekend
In collaboration with various local agencies, the Turlock Police Department has documented contact with 143 unhoused people and offered opportunities for services since the homelessness emergency began (Journal file photo).

Although shelter increases have been minimal since the City of Turlock declared homelessness a local emergency, the action is still proving effective as officials continue to provide services to unhoused individuals throughout town. 

The City Council first ratified the local emergency in March and it lasted four months. While large camps throughout town were successfully disbanded by public safety officials during that time, an extra 200 beds at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds were not utilized. A second local emergency was ratified in July, which shifted the focus to helping those who remained homeless by re-appropriating unspent funds from the original proclamation to be used on the issue moving forward.

By declaring a local emergency, the City can obtain additional resources, establish an immediate plan and respond quickly to urgent situations. Councilman Andrew Nosrati has routinely voted “no,” on continuing the local emergency in recent Council meetings, pulling the item from the consent calendar to voice his concern about what is truly being done to help the homeless. 

“I don’t think we are addressing it in a pacing that, to me, aligns with an emergency proclamation,” Nosrati said during Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s not being given the resources that I feel are justified to bring this forward…it's just my hope that we do this with a higher level of urgency and with more resources within our city.”

Currently, the City continues to rent space for shelter beds at the fairgrounds through September 2022 at a cost of $1,000 per month. City Attorney George Petrulakis told the Journal that providing an adequate number of beds for Turlock’s total count of unhoused individuals is an important facet of the City’s long-term plan, which is under development by the Council’s homelessness ad hoc committee spearheaded by Councilmember Rebecka Monez and Vice Mayor Pam Franco. 

Though the additional beds have yet to be used, Turlock Police Department Captain Steven Williams on Tuesday clarified how the declaration has benefitted unhoused individuals in town through service, rather than shelter, as was originally anticipated.

In collaboration with various local agencies, TPD has documented contact with 143 unhoused people and offered opportunities for services since the emergency began. In total, agencies have made 257 unique contacts with unhoused individuals.

“While there is still work to do, there have been successes. There are ongoing successes, not just in the beginning,” Williams said. “As we continue through the process, those successes have continued.”

Just last week, TPD and other agencies engaged 19 individuals in a single day. Of the 19 unhoused individuals contacted, eight of them accepted services: two for vital document assistance, two for public benefits, one for Social Security and disability services, one for medical services and two for mental health services.

“While there may or may not be, depending on the day of the week and the week of the month, an increase in sheltered homeless that we want to see, there are all of these other services that these people are finally accepting through repeated contacts over and over and over again,” Williams said. “It's continued outreach…Through the efforts of staff and partnering with the allied agencies, we are making an impact and there is much more work to do.”

In addition to shelter at the Turlock Gospel Mission and We Care, individuals are able to escape the cold weather at the Roger K. Hall Transit Center, 1418 N. Golden State Blvd., which will be utilized as a Warming Center from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days per week. Nighttime Warming Centers are Turlock Gospel Mission, 437 S. Broadway, and We Care, 221 S. Broadway, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. seven days a week.