We have seen a lot of discussion and committees about the homeless population in Turlock, however, we don’t feel like the unhoused population is being properly cared for. Any local can talk about the visible rise of homelessness, and we as a community can keep discussing the issues, but what are we doing to help?
Scarcity of resources is clearly at the root of the issue, contrary to the stigma that assumes our homeless population are a group of individuals that became homeless due to drug and alcohol addiction. Many of our homeless population are associated with being unemployable, dirty, drug-addicted, or criminal. While addictions can indeed lead to homelessness, especially when the vice of choice becomes a priority over employment or housing costs, it’s more likely that an individual becomes homeless due to not having financial resources to maintain or obtain adequate resources.
After doing some research on what kind of mental health and medical health care is available, it’s astonishing to find how few homeless outreach programs there are within the community. From experience, finding a doctor in Turlock requires a long wait, and finding a mental health provider is difficult as providers are scarce. There aren’t enough resources to care for our community.
While mental and medical health, and addictions may be factors, other factors include the lack of affordable shelter or housing. The amount of money it takes to place a deposit, first month’s rent, application fees, etc., is more than what most common residents in the Central Valley can afford. Many citizens live paycheck-to-paycheck and have financial obligations regarding their families and cost of living expenses. If a rent increase is necessary, then let’s also increase individual pay to include cost of living adjustments. One Turlock apartment, which one of us penning this letter lived, had increased the monthly rental rate from $740 to $1,075 over a few years. We would love to find an employer willing to raise their employee’s pay to accommodate that $335 monthly increase, but that’s not happening.
Attempting to normalize life, we see many of our homeless population building shelter, which is often torn down by city officials and law enforcement. Recently, we’ve seen articles and videos of Turlock parks being cleaned up or cleared out, which has continued the cycle of displacing our homeless population. A recent quote from our Mayor stated that parks were being returned to the community, but at the expense of who? The other part of our community? Because the last time we checked: having a home is not a prerequisite to being part of the community. So, what are we doing for our community?
— Lupita Barraza, Denae Davis, Austin Gunter and Jackie Hernandez, CSU Stanislaus, Master of Social Work students