Interim Turlock City Manager Gary Hampton issued a proclamation of a local emergency in response to the increase of individuals experiencing homelessness in Turlock and the Turlock City Council ratified it Tuesday night, and in doing so approved funding for mitigation efforts.
The proclamation was passed 5-0 and the funding was passed 4-1 with Councilman Andrew Nosrati casting the lone no vote.
The City Council approved spending $498,417 to assist shelter providers with additional costs of operations and to accommodate the increase in people served. The funding also will pay for site clean-up, supplies, service agreements, materials, staffing costs, maintenance and upkeep, and miscellaneous expenses.
By declaring a local emergency, the City can obtain additional resources, establish an immediate plan and respond quickly to urgent situations.
The local emergency proclamation will last for four months and has an end goal of reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness and setting up encampments around Turlock.
Over the course of the four months, city staff will partner with service providers like We Care and the Turlock Gospel Mission to connect unsheltered individuals and families with emergency shelter and other available social service resources as well as reconnect homeless individuals with their families.
"Every reasonable effort will be made to assist those in need," the City stated in a news release. "Should individuals refuse, reject, or decline available services, appropriate steps will be taken to address illegal behaviors including the enforcement of applicable laws and taking necessary actions within the limits of the law to reverse the adverse trends and restore the quality of life in Turlock."
“The situation of homeless encampments over the last few months has gone from an unsightly nuisance, to a real and present danger to the health and safety of the entire community for both the unsheltered homeless persons in encampments as well as to the community,” stated Hampton. “Our focus in this 120-day plan is to decrease the illegal and nuisance behaviors engaged in by some in encampments, and reverse the noticeable decline in the quality of life for businesses, residents, and visitors in the City of Turlock.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires communities to conduct a point in time count to gage how much of the population is experiencing homlessness, but it was suspended for this year because of COVID-19. However, the City estimates show that the homeless population is growing in Turlock. Interim Turlock Police Chief Steven Williams said there are approximately 225 individuals experiencing homelessness and living in one of the five largest homeless encampments around town. That number does not include those at the shelters and those in small encampments. In 2019 and 2020, the point in time count averaged 239 individuals. Between 2013 and 2018, the average was 178 people experiencing homelessness.
Concurrent with the implementation of the emergency plan, the City is engaging all of the community stakeholders, service providers and community groups to develop a 36-month plan to address the Unsheltered Homeless and Encampments Crisis beyond the initial emergency response. City staff will be focused on the immediate emergency situation while also planning for the longer-term options and solutions.
Efforts to clean up the encampments around town have already started. Union Pacific railroad, which owns the land by the railroad tracks, have already cleaned-up the encampments on their property. On Thursday, the City will be conducting a clean-up project at the encampment at 1400 W. Main Street.