Amid public outcry over Turlock’s homeless issue and its potential resolutions, City Councilmember Andrew Nosrati has taken it upon himself to draw up a policy recommendation he believes would appease everyone while tackling the problem.
A joint public meeting held at City Hall on July 3 saw business operators, downtown property owners, City officials and service providers convene for a discussion about a potential outdoor emergency shelter, much like the camp where Modesto’s homeless population resides underneath the Ninth Street Bridge. Nosrati was one of two Councilmembers present at the meeting, along with Councilmember Becky Arellano, which ultimately resulted in a petition against the emergency shelter that was passed around Facebook and amassed nearly 700 signatures.
This reaction to a simple idea — not an action taken by the Council — was unwarranted, Nosrati said, so on Saturday, he held a town hall meeting at Crust & Crumb Pizza where about 35 community members gathered to share ideas and possible solutions to the City’s homeless population.
“I think that this is a very, very sensitive subject where people are very concerned that the action (the Council) takes is going to make things worse. Very preliminary conversations and planning, or just doing due diligence is perceived to be the City acting in opposition with public will,” Nosrati said, adding that Saturday’s town hall was an effort to increase the community’s trust in its public officials. “I believe that we, as a Council, have great intentions, and sometimes we misstep in how we are communicating it as a City…It’s really just finding out how we can properly ensure the public feels they are the ones shaping the policies that the City pursues.”
Through conversing with community stakeholders at town halls, on telephone calls and even via email, Nosrati has put forth a seven-bullet policy recommendation, which aims to address homelessness and its impact on Turlock — a “working document,” he said, that has been in progress since his 2018 campaign for City Council.
Within the policy recommendation are seven points Nosrati and community members he’s spoken with believe will be effective without having a negative effect on the city, including: “Support the betterment of our neighbor,” “Protect our homes and support our businesses,” “Improve the effectiveness of existing support services,” “Close gaps in community support needs,” “More specialized, effective assessment and enforcement,” “Gain control of city wide encampment” and “Incentivize cooperation of code, enhance participation in services.”
“I came up with this policy, and have run it by a lot of smaller groups of people who have helped improvise it along the way,” he said.
Nosrati has also looked at other cities with similar population sizes which struggle with homelessness for inspiration on solutions, he added.
“The City of Turlock needs to adopt this and make it the compass, or the guiding direction for what we think holistically is the best way for us to deal with all of the elements."Councilmember Andrew Nosrati
“The City of Turlock needs to adopt this and make it the compass, or the guiding direction for what we think holistically is the best way for us to deal with all of the elements,” Nosrati said.
Following the public response to the proposed “tent village,” Nosrati said the option is no longer on the table.
“I think that the idea of an emergency outdoor shelter as it’s thought of — this ‘tent city’ — would not be supported by the Turlock community,” he said. “I want to make sure what we do support them ensures that anyone stepping into this supported effort is one who’s increasing their likelihood of escaping homelessness.”
Through County, State and even perhaps Federal funding, Nosrati’s policy recommendation looks to not only provide housing and support for those who may be on the verge of homelessness and those who are already on the street, but to also ensure community impact surveys keep a close eye on how this help is affecting Turlock.
The policy also recommends Turlock utilize grant writing, administrative support and training workshops to work with service providers and identify immediate needs, better creating whole-person care and transition plans for those who currently access services.
The policy would also invest in prevention, identifying existing gaps in youth services as well as affordable housing, with the City supporting the “existence and livelihood” of every homeless individual, no matter how they became that way. He also calls for the creation of a specialized unit within the Turlock Police Department that would use County funding to go beyond law enforcement and provide individualized care and treatment of the city’s homeless.
This task force would also enforce modified encampment regulations, with a zero-tolerance policy on semi-permanent dwellings, or camps, near residential and school zones, and controlled allowances in commercial zones and public benefit lands.
“Since my campaign, it was very clear that the public wanted some action to be taken to alleviate homelessness and it’s effect on our community,” Nosrati said. “I think there’s sometimes the expression that some people are compassionate and others are not based on how they’re reacting to this scenario, but even those who are sounding angry and frustrated about this also have compassion because they don’t want to see people losing their mind on the street and not getting the help they need. It’s a very complicated issue and one that won’t get better unless we start to change our trajectory.”
As Nosrati said, the policy recommendation is a work in progress, and the Councilman is looking for more public input before putting the policy before the Turlock City Council for action at a future meeting. To view the policy recommendation, visit www.facebook.com/nosratiforturlock. Input can be emailed to Nosrati at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“For those people that are casually engaged in a very, very complex issue, their expression of frustration through casual engagement is not helping us,” Nosrati said. “If they are frustrated but they’re not willing to read through a six-page proposal and give criticism of it, they have equal responsibility for the decisions that we make.”