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Former school: Homeless resource center?
tru care
San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti and Roy Santos talk about the possibilities of the 5 acre site. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT / The Bulletin

About three years ago, Roy Santos and a buddy were driving along the agricultural area along Highway 4 just southwest of Stockton.

He noticed what appeared to be an abandon school amid the eight-foot weeds.

“We started pulling the weeds,” said Santos, not too long after purchasing the 5-acre former Holt Union School. “We had to start somewhere.”

The Holt Union School District – dissolved some 10 years ago – has become a possible resource center for the homeless in San Joaquin County, in particular, the at-risk and in-need.

San Joaquin County  Board of Supervisors member Tom Patti, has called this potential facility consisting of pooling the various resources the “Tru Care Plan” – referral criteria would be individuals with substance (any type of drug or alcohol) challenges, mental health challenges, and those who are homeless.

Added Mike Anderson, Patti’s Chief of Staff: “This is a turnkey operation that’s been fully maintained since its closing and ready for move-in with some modifications.”

Patti and Santos provided a tour of Holt Union School on Thursday to look at the possibilities of providing a place to accommodate and provide the various support services to the area homeless under one roof.

Board Chairman Miguel Villapudua, District 1, not to mention other elected leaders and homeless advocacy & health service groups were also in attendance.

Holt Union, once a kindergarten- through- sixth-grade school site located at 1545 S. Holt Rd., is equipped with a multi-purpose building with a fully-operational kitchen, rest rooms, showers, administration offices, and classrooms including two large portable units.

Four of the classrooms and the portables could serve as family rooms, Patti said.

Other possibilities of the “Tru Care Plan” consists of a small volunteer medical staff to provide health screenings, the installation of 15 showers and a large outdoor area for temporary shelter along with a kennel.

Santos mentioned the latter, knowing in his work with the homeless that many are pet owners.

He and his Chief of Staff Julio Gomez offered their idea of turning Holt into a place with “compassionate care” with available resources.

“What’s great is that we have a facility in place,” said Santos, who mentioned using the Haven of Hope, a non-profit organization in San Antonio, Texas, that offers social services and housing to the homeless as a possible model.

“We’d like to replicate that success,” said Patti of Haven of Hope, which, for over 10 years, has received state and private funding in order to effectively offer a myriad of support services.

Santos noted that Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is pushing to establish a “right to shelter” plan of homeless people in California.

Under the plan – New York City adopted a similar plan – hopeless people would be legally obligated to stay in indoor facilities when invited.

Stockton Councilmember Susan Lenz supports the “Tru Care Plan,” knowing that some of the estimated 1,100 unsheltered homeless in her city reside in her district consisting of the Calaveras River.

“We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars moving them,” she said of this Band Aid approach. “We spend a lot of money to clean up after our homeless just to watch them move back.”

The problem continues to multiply.

“We need to do something,” Lenz said.

A presentation on the Tru Care Project, to the Continuum of Care membership meeting, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday at the Stockton Civic Auditorium, 525 N. El Dorado St. 

“We believe this may bring significant expertise and support for the project, to get it in front of this focused group of local stakeholder and homeless service providers,” Anderson said.

Patti represents Manteca north of Yosemite Avenue, Lathrop and parts of Stockton.