While it was brought up in an ad-hoc meeting, there has been no action taken by the City of Turlock to support a “tent city” for the homeless. Our apologies for creating this perception but my hope, with this message, is to help focus the dialogue towards what we are trying to accomplish. Rather than signing petitions in opposition to a “proposal” that has not been put forward or debating whether or not you want a “tent city” in Turlock, I’m asking the community to tell this Council how they would like us to move forward with an immediate intervention strategy to address the homeless crisis plaguing our city today.
I have talked to business owners, non-profits, health care providers, homeowners, the homeless and anyone that has an opinion on the subject; and the one thing we can all agree on is that things need to change. The meeting held last Wednesday was this Council’s attempt to listen to our community in order to best understand what they will and will not be receptive of.
This conversation is not over, but this is what I’ve heard so far:
· Do not enable homelessness — There is no debating that an overwhelming majority of residents within our community are compassionate and giving, with a desire to help those in need. There is, however, a lot of conversation about how we can best mitigate the situation. What we at the Council are hearing is that the residents are not interested in simply putting a temporary roof over someone’s head, without addressing the underlying needs of that individual.
The program we will support should assess individualized needs and create wraparound services to address what led to homelessness for that individual, with a path out — “hands up and not handouts.” Those that are supported by our efforts will need to be committed to helping themselves.
· Protect the housed and protect our businesses (with a special emphasis on areas already severely impacted) — Protecting the public safety and economic investments for those residents and businesses that call Turlock home is critical. We cannot let our attempts to address this situation negatively affect the quality of life for the rest of the community. Any location considered will require the council to fully understand and mitigate any potential negative ramifications to the surrounding community.
A corresponding “Community Impact Report" to gather key information from our residents, businesses and emergency services would need to be attached to any effort to assure leadership that the actions we are taking are not worsening the problem.
· Provide safety and a standard of living — Any intervention services cannot promote a rise in crime and public health risks. Even the most temporary actions supported by the city, must be of a quality that we can back.
We need rules and order within any facility so those living within are given a stable foundation to be able to find recovery from homelessness. The Turlock citizens don’t want tents, squalor, and crime; they want safety, stability, and a path out of homelessness.
· Support the longtime Turlock homeless — There is a concern that the addition of support services will contribute to an increase to the homeless population in town. To combat this, it will be recommended that those who have been engaged in support services within city limits are the ones toward whom we direct our support efforts.
To make sure that the whole community is given the opportunity to be heard, I will be hosting office hours. I will be available to meet with members of the public from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday and noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday. Call 209-668-5540 to make an appointment during those hours.
I will also host a town hall meeting at 3 p.m. Saturday at Crust and Crumb, 428 E. Main St., Turlock.