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Turlock: Moving forward despite the obstacles
Jeffrey R. Lewis

Like many communities in California and nationwide, Turlock tries to do a common thing uncommonly well every day by feeding homeless individuals and families.

We do this for several reasons, but most importantly, to preserve human dignity, never forgetting that someday the person being helped could be one of us, a family member, or a friend.

Turlock is working hard to address the myriad of challenges the homeless population presents while never forgetting about the middle-income parents struggling to feed, clothe and house their families.

First, a mobile healthcare program was instituted in 2022 to help ensure that any community resident could access needed care.

Second, the United Samaritans Foundation operates an Rx program funded by EMC Health Foundation and Legacy Health Endowment for any resident not on a federally funded insurance program and below 400% of the federal poverty level who needs help filling a prescription. The program continues to help families cope with medical crises and new diagnoses and bridge the gap during hardship.

Third, some homeless residents and those on the brink of homelessness need access to mental health care. Through La Familia Central Valley, a behavioral health counselor works out of the We Care Program to provide mental health counseling, case management, and referrals for greater levels of care. La Familia offers these same services at its Geer Road office for any Turlock resident, whether or not they have insurance or can pay.

Fourth, the owners of TIN Rx, an independent pharmacy in Turlock, offer more than 700 generic medications for $2. A program for insulin-dependent diabetics requires them to pay only $2 for a 30-day supply. Legacy Health Endowment and the EMC Health Foundation sponsor these programs to help our community.

Fifth, Turlock has an in-home long-term care program (Person-Centered Care PCC) to help children of aging parents and elderly couples avoid the fear of premature placement into a nursing home. The City of Turlock and Legacy Health Endowment have partnered to ensure that any Turlock resident needing in-home assistance can receive help. PCC offers seniors and caregivers as much or as little assistance as they need to remain safe, healthy, and independent.

Sixth, United Samaritans Foundation secured funding from the EMC Health Foundation and the City of Turlock Community Development Block Grant program to provide an eye care program for seniors. This program offers a free eye exam and prescription glasses (if needed) for residents of Turlock. It has now been expanded to include children.

The city continues to look at the roles of its nonprofits and how to strengthen their impact within our community. This year, the mayor’s State of the City address drew attention to many nonprofits working to provide youth services, tackling food insecurity, and other vital resources for our neighborhoods.

Finally, Turlock continues to seek housing solutions for individuals and families. While the Turlock Gospel Mission and WeCare program helps homeless individuals, homeless families still struggle. To tackle homelessness, we must focus first on homeless families and those with children to ensure housing access before the wintry weather starts. The Turlock Unified School District has identified 53 children from families seeking housing. Many are living in motels or couch surfing. Some are immigrants from other countries who sought refuge here. Regardless of how the lack of housing has occurred, these children deserve better.

Imagine building low-income apartments on the massive piece of land in front of Emanuel Medical Center or that vacant land directly across from CSUS on Geer Road and Del Monte. Part of this discussion is educating the community about how dedicated dollars from grant programs must be used and approaching the federal Housing and Urban Development Department and other entities to replicate successful programs from other communities here.

With federal and state dollars flying out the door to protect so many “important causes,” why not ask the federal government and the state legislature to invest in Turlock and build subsidized housing in one of these locations? It could include healthcare services and a centralized kitchen to ensure against hunger, the inability to find a primary care provider, and other services.

The Turlock city manager and the City Council are collaborating, talking, and seeking to build unified solutions. They struggle with the ghosts of the past and what has not been done.

One area where improvement is needed is coordinating feeding programs for people experiencing homelessness and struggling middle-income families.

Turlock has more than 30 diverse and interlaced programs supporting our community (refer to the diagram below). While each program serves a valuable purpose, some duplicate efforts result in potential donations being diverted from one area of need to another. By streamlining and coordinating these efforts, we can effectively maximize the impact of contributions and direct resources to address other pressing needs.

Turlock epitomizes the finest aspects of rural California and America. Here, we are committed to serving one another, fostering a strong sense of community, and continuously seeking opportunities to impact our neighbors’ lives positively. Together, we strive to learn and grow, dedicated to making a meaningful difference in the daily lives of those around us.  

 — Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment and the EMC Health Foundation ( The views expressed are his own.