A planned protest outside Turlock City Hall Thursday night to raise awareness for the seasonal closure of Turlock’s homeless shelter ended with the arrest of one man for a charge of illegal camping.
Vernon Price, a self-described homeless advocate, was arrested by Turlock Police officers for violating the city’s municipal code which prohibits camping in any park, street, public parking lot and public areas. Typically the infraction is a citable offense, but because Price refused to leave the premises he was arrested and booked into Stanislaus County Jail, said Turlock Police spokesperson Officer Mayra Lewis.
Price had organized the “sleep out” as a protest to the closure of the shelters and the lack of a legal place for homeless individuals to sleep overnight.
The Turlock Gospel Mission and the We Care Shelter both closed their cold weather shelters as of this month. The emergency cold weather shelters operate from November to April. We Care takes in about 44 men nightly during that time, while the Turlock Gospel Mission helps about 30 women and children with overnight shelter each night. The Turlock Gospel Mission is currently constructing a year-round shelter that should be open to take in homeless individuals by the coming winter.
The City of Turlock’s municipal code defines camping in a broad scope and includes anything from pitching a tent, to rolling out a bedroll, to storing personal property nearby for use.
Police officers first approached the dozen or so individuals camped out in front of City Hall shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday. Lewis said the officers explained that the protestors were in violation of the municipal code and faced possible arrest if they didn’t leave. The officers also offered to take anyone who wanted to go to the shelter in Modesto but no one wanted to make the trip, Lewis said.
According to the police report, most of the individuals understood the police orders and said they would leave the area, but Price told the officers he would be staying.
Shortly before 1 a.m. Friday, the officers returned to City Hall and found Price asleep. It’s unclear if others were with Price, but he was the only one who refused to leave, Lewis said.
“Because he was likely to continue sleeping there, the officers arrested and booked him,” Lewis said.
Jail records indicated Price was released from custody Friday afternoon.