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Turlock’s homeless success story

Others have tried to copy but have failed to do so

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Turlock’s homeless success story

Manteca Police talk with the homeless recently at Wilson Park behind the post office in downtown.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED August 28, 2014 1:15 a.m.

TURLOCK – Tim Guerino knows that the model works. 

If you give the homeless a place to go during the day and provide them with the resources that they need to get off of the street, the odds that they’re going to have success in finding a job or a suitable place to live increases substantially. 

But it just takes a city willing to employ the tactics necessary to make it all possible. 

And that means teamwork – the kind of teamwork that no city outside of Turlock has been able to employ in the three years since the community put together a unique program that gives those needing a helping hand somewhere that they can go not just to sleep, but to spend their days constructively taking the steps to improve their situation. 

“We’ve had a ton of cities come and look at what it is that we’ve done, but none have been able to copy it because it takes a high level of coordination and cooperation – it’s faith-based organizations and government entities working together,” said Guerino – the Executive Director of the Turlock Gospel Mission. “We don’t get a dime of government money and yet we work hand-in-hand with a lot of government departments and that’s what has made this so successful. 

“If you were to look at the panhandlers that you see on the streets of Turlock, 99 percent of them are from Modesto and most of them are professionals. Many of them are drug addicts and a lot of them have warrants. We work with the police department – we’ll go out to them and let them know that we’re there to help, but that if they have warrants they probably want to move along because the police are on their way. This is about helping those who want it, and not just those that are looking for an easy handout.”

• • •

Turlock had situation similar to Manteca’s

While the idea is somewhat radical, the reason for its implementation comes from circumstances being seen in communities all over the Central Valley.

With pressure from the community the Manteca Police Department has recently been forced to roust the homeless from places like Library Park and the Historical Plaza at Spreckels Park – displacing upwards of 50 people that would otherwise be concentrated in a single area. 

That means all of those people are suddenly out prowling the streets of Manteca. Some pushing shopping carts and some ride bikes with trailers attached carrying recyclables. 

The same scenario played itself out in Turlock, Guerino said. The idea to open the day center cropped up when he was hired as a consultant, having had experience concocting a similar plan in Syracuse, New York, when he was working upstate full-time as a pastor. 

Now he oversees the entire program. He has turned it into the hub for those searching for services in that section of Stanislaus County. It’s a place where people can check in with probation and parole agents instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be able to keep a steady and solid address with the family member they might be staying at or the motel serving as a temporary crash pad. Law enforcement entities, he said, appreciate having a place where they know they can meet with the people that they’re looking for, and outreach ministries and groups have a centralized location to provide for those who need it. 

It’s the little things, Guerino said, that most people don’t realize play a vital role in preventing most people from getting back on their feet. 

• • •

California ID card critical for homeless to get jobs

Something as small as a California ID card, something mu st people take for granted, can be the difference between getting a job and getting turned down. Obtaining one requires both a Social Security card and a birth certificate, and neither are things that the homeless carry around with them when they’re out on the street. 

“We’ve been able to outfit hundreds of people with ID cards since we started the program,” he said. “It’s such an important part of the process. We’re seeing anywhere from 50 to 80 people every day, and we’re doing intake and setting them up with case managers and helping them take the simple steps needed to make their situation better. 

“If they need drug or alcohol treatment we work to help them with that, and if they need mental health services – something that’s lacking so much – we try to get them setup with that as well. There’s no place for the mentally ill to go and those people end up becoming the chronically homeless and that’s where you end up seeing a lot of the problems on the street. Those are the people we want to help. That’s who we want to reach.”

The Turlock Gospel Mission Homeless Assistance Ministry is located at 1030 East Avenue in Turlock, and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year. The organization is in the process of working with another local group to provide beds for both homeless single men and women with children. For additional information visit www.turlockgospelmission.org or call 209.656.1033.

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2 comments
twodogss: 1 month, 3 weeks ago

“California Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday his state is willing to shelter more migrant children from Central America if needed but reiterated that the United States needs to find a long-term solution to the immigration crisis.”

It’s too bad our Gov. can’t do the same for our own people.

Utah has a program, Housing First Initiative, an experiment that started about 10 years back and has proved to be successful. Housing First is based on the premise that in order to help the homeless, the first thing they must have is a permanent place to live. Then, social service workers and other officials can begin helping them in other areas of their lives.

The goal: Instead of shrugging and cursing when the homeless showed up half-dead at emergency rooms, they'd try to get them into shelter and, hopefully, independent living. If that didn't work, they'd still keep the apartments. They have found it really is cheaper in the long run, than paying out for all the medical costs from those living on the street. They also found about 30% were able to get and hold some kind of employment, once housed. It was not a requirement, but a result of stability. Others were stable enough to acquire disability benefits. Those employed and those with benefits, pay about 30% of their income for rent, so housing is not a complete wash for the government.

Unlike Utah, California seems to prefer to spend their resources on illegal immigrants instead of our own hardship cases.

Homeless people should be treated with the decency that we, ourselves, would want to be treated. Harassing, ticketing etc. should be taken out of the police contact agenda. It’s one thing to check ID and another to harass.

If California has the funds to house, treat, cloth, educate, find employment, etc. for illegal immigrants, why can’t they divert those funds for our own folks first? In fact, dump the Super train to Nowhere, Dump the Twin Canals of Hell and divert the money to taking care of our own less fortunate.

Remember, there but for the grace of God, go thee and I.


Jruble: 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Sounds like a great setup. I hope that the players can put aside egos and make this happen in Manteca.




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