Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse and new Turlock Police Chief Jason Hedden met with the community at Westside Ministries on Monday to discuss a variety of topics, with most of the conservation centered around combating homelessness in Turlock and the surrounding communities.
“We do deal with homelessness quite a bit,” said Dirkse. “We are in the middle of quite a few things on that topic. We’re hoping to get more staff from the Board of Supervisors, if they vote on it.”
Turlock has partnered with Stanislaus County’s Community Assessment Response and Engagement (CARE) program and has set up an office recently for them at the police department. Local police departments refer individuals who have frequent interactions with law enforcement for issues dealing with homelessness such as illegal camping, and from there the CARE team provides resources to help get that individual out of their situation.
This Thursday the CARE team will be at the Turlock Gospel Mission helping people with a variety of resources including obtaining a driver’s license.
Some community members raised the point that people experiencing homelessness need to be placed in some form of permanent housing to initiate them receiving services and treatment that they need, and pointed to recent progress San Francisco has made.
“First thing is I would never, ever want to model anything we did after San Francisco, because it’s a disaster there,” said Dirkse. “There are so many resources in our county to help the homeless if they want to take advantage of the resources. The vast majority of them don’t want to use the resources and the vast majority of them do not need economic assistance. It’s not like they need first and last month’s rent to get housing; the major issues are mental, drugs or both.”
Other community members agreed with the main issue being mental health and said it was time to bring a quality mental health facility to the county.
“I sat down with a long conversation with (Congressman) Josh Harder and we determined it would be $40 million for a starting point, and that doesn't include operations,” said Dirkse. “The resources needed for that is typically going to extend the county coffers.”
Another issue that was discussed at the community forum were neighbors lighting illegal fireworks and avenues to report that activity.
“If I don’t see it, I can’t do anything,” said Hedden. “If you see, you can sign a citizen’s arrest, but a lot of time people don’t want to do that.”
Finally, the Police Chief discussed traffic issues in neighborhoods that are seeing new development.
“The first good thing that you did was bring it up so we could get traffic units out there,” said Hedden. “We have officers that deal with nothing but these traffic issues and bring it to our attention, let's have them out there.”