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City clears out second homeless camp
Emergency shelter beds remain unused
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Individuals camping outside in the 200 block of W. Glenwood were moved out on Wednesday as part of the City of Turlock’s response to a 120-day emergency declaration made regarding homelessness in Turlock (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

The City of Turlock cleaned out a second homeless encampment on Wednesday and while some individuals utilized the offers of services, none opted to move to one of the shelters.

The encampment was located in the 200 block of W. Glenwood Avenue and was encroaching onto the road. The cleanup is part of the City's response to a 120-day emergency declaration made regarding homelessness in Turlock. Previously, the City cleared out a lot on W. Main Street that was being used as a camp site, but was on private property.

Between March 16 and April 6, social services and volunteers visited the camp to help individuals with services ranging from medical needs to public assistance. Thirteen people took assistance getting vital documents like identification cards and birth certificates; six were assisted with getting Social Security or disability funds; two took offers for mental health help; 10 were assisted with medical needs; seven were helped signing up for public assistance services like Medi-cal and Cal-Fresh; and one took up an offer for a substance abuse program. But none of the individuals opted to move to either the We Care or Turlock Gospel Mission.

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Crews work to remove items left by those living in a homeless encampment 200 block of W. Glenwood Avenue (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Liz Padilla, the founder of Helping Hands, which assists the homeless in Turlock in a number of ways, said some declined shelter because of their pets or not wanting to separate from a partner, but that mostly it came down to a matter of trust.

"These people can read you like a book and they know if you're sincere or just playing nice," Padilla said. "If you show them a little bit of compassion and understanding, then they will do anything for you. A lot of them are dealing with mental health issues, substance abuse and the idea of being inside a shelter with other people can trigger some anxiety and that's why they're hesitant.

"I was helping this one lady and she was going to rent a room at a motel and I asked her why spend that money that is only going to give you one or two nights stay at the most, when you could have a bed at the shelter," Padilla recounted. "I told her to give Turlock Gospel Mission a try. I said 'What do you have to lose?' So, she gave it a try and now she loves it and she's getting help."

Padilla pointed to TGM's recent meet and greet as a positive step in relieving some of that anxiety. On April 9, TGM brought a bus to the Glenwood encampment and brought everyone back to the shelter for a chance to explore the options available and to feed them a barbecue meal. From that encounter, five people filled out paperwork to start TGM's restoration program.

TGM recognized that some people would have issues separating from their pets or partners or even their possessions and have altered their operations to help ease those concerns. At the start of the 120-day emergency declaration, TGM was able to increase capacity by 80 by placing cots in the dining section, and that area is open to both men and women, said TGM Executive Director Christian Curby.

Additionally, TGM is allowing pets and has storage available for important possessions, as well as drug and alcohol recovery program, case management, meals, clothing, pet food and vet care, haircuts and showers.

When the city started the 120-day emergency declaration, it was done with the hope and expectation that more people would take up the offer of shelter. TGM is renting space at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds that can house up to 200 individuals, but so far has not needed to open it up. However, TGM is having to pay $15,000 a month in rent regardless if it is being used or not, Curby said.

"The city is working on a reimbursement agreement with TGM for those costs but it is in process," said City of Turlock spokesperson Maryn Pitt.

On March 16, the Turlock City Council approved spending $498,417 to assist shelter providers with additional costs of shelter operation and to accommodate additional people. 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.