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Navigator program hits the streets to help homeless
TGM homeless navigator
Bernardo Garcia is filling the position of the new Homeless Navigator, an outreach program in partnership with the Turlock Gospel Mission and the City of Turlock. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

The Turlock Gospel Mission offers a multitude of services and programs to help homeless individuals, but often the biggest challenge is getting those individuals to come through the doors. A new partnership between TGM and the City of Turlock is aiming to bridge that gap by going directly out to the street.

In a unanimous vote on Aug. 14, the Turlock City Council agreed to partner with the Turlock Gospel Mission at a cost not to exceed $47,000 for funding of the Outreach, Navigation and Diversion Program Services. This program will see a Homeless Navigator working case management at the street level and help homeless individuals find and utilize the services they need to help get them off the streets.

“In effect, the Gospel Mission will be able to take what they do now everyday inside their building and proactively initiate helpful and appropriate services to individuals in need in the field without having to wait for a referral from the courts,” said Interim City Attorney Frank Splendorio.

We want to reach the people that haven’t heard of the Turlock Gospel Mission or are unsure about utilizing the services. We’ll engage them wherever they are at.
TGM Executive Director Christian Curby

The program has grown out of the diversion program the city began in 2016 as a pilot that allows people who have violated the city’s municipal code the opportunity to perform community service and others contingencies in lieu of having to go to court and being ordered to pay a fine. From December 2015 to June 2016, the program had 31 participants, according to city records. From July 2017 to March 2018, TGM has connected with 75 individuals through the diversion program and has seen positive outcomes.

“The program has been effective, but limited in its reach of those being cited,” Splendorio said.

“We want to reach the people that haven’t heard of the Turlock Gospel Mission or are unsure about utilizing the services,” said TGM Executive Director Christian Curby. “We’ll engage them wherever they are at.”

Bernardo Garcia, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is filling the position of the new Homeless Navigator and has been busy connecting with individuals out at Turlock parks and encampments around the city. He’s already engaged several veterans and at least one homeless family and is getting them signed up for services that are available for their use.

“As a veteran I really didn’t have to work, but I couldn’t just stay home… I felt what better place than the Gospel Mission to be able to serve the community,” Garcia said.

In addition to the Homeless Navigator position, TGM is rolling out a Business Help Hotline for businesses to utilize when dealing with homeless individuals is proving problematic. The line is meant for non-law enforcement issues and is in operation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The phone number is 656-1308. The afterhours email is