Frank Saldana attended the workshop for the Mixed-Use Community Homeless Navigation Center earlier in the week.
He’s the founder of the Inner City Action, operators of the Mobile Revival Family Resource Center, 555 Industrial Ave., Manteca.
The 120- by- 80- foot tent structure at the former Qualex building is the site of the local homeless shelter, a refuge and a cooling center for those trying to get back on their feet . Tey’re offered a safe place to sleep along with daily meals, showers, haircuts, fresh clothes and clean restroom facilities, to name a few, at the temporary digs. Drugs and alcohol are prohibited.
But it’s more than that.
“We have the resources to help wherever,” Saldana said on Thursday.
Included are places to find jobs, in which a few of the homeless have successfully located work nearby.
Saldana noted that two are working at Walmart while another, James, just got hired at Tesla Motors. Those finding work, as in the case of James, are applauded by their fellow habitants at the center They are encouraged by the staff at Inner City Action to budget and save their money to find permanent living quarters.
That’s the goal of the Mobile Revival Family Resource Center along with proposed Navigation Center, according to City of Manteca’s Senior Management Analyst Johanna Ferriera.
The current homeless shelter is an offspring of the emergency homeless center operation during the winter months by the Turlock Gospel Mission. In March, the City Council agreed to authorize a series of six-month contracts, taking the first step towards providing year-round shelter and services for the homeless.
Inner City Action, which spearheaded the operation in 2019, was awarded the recent contract that extends through Sept. 30.
Ferriera’s figures for August included an average of about 41 using the shelter by day and an average of 27 per night.
Inside, they’re cooled off by a pair of large Portacool portable systems and air conditioning unit. They’re not only provided with a safe haven – besides the heat, the homeless have a place to escape the poor air quality from the fires – but also a place with resources to better themselves.
“They’re kept busy – we try to motivate them by dropping the seed with the resources and encouragement. They’re advancing and we’re advancing,” said Saldana, who mentioned that each person in shelter is different.
A few people use the late morning to read or take advantage of the resources, under the calming sounds of soft music. Others congregate by the outside tables while others opt to spend the day walking around town.
Many will return for the lunch and / or dinner – food is donated and usually prepared on the premises by staff. The popular menu items are usually when hamburgers or spare ribs are served, Saldana said.
At the community meeting from a few nights ago, Saldana mentioned that he, too, was homeless once upon a time. He’s spent 25 years working with the homeless.
He was thrilled to be back operating the Manteca facility. For the homeless, this was familiar grounds and a place for stability and continuity.
“They’re comfortable here. We’ve building relationships through trust,” said Saldana.
Plans for the Mixed-Use Community Navigation Center to be built nearby along an 8-acre site between South Mellon Avenue and South Main Street have the entrance to the navigation center being along the Carnegie Circle cul-de-sac.
The proposed navigation center as presented by LPA consultants would involve 17,100 square feet of structure with a common room for dining and TV use, a full-service kitchen, and offices and classroom / multipurpose room / activity room. A wall would separate the shelter with dorms for men, women and family from the affordable housing – seven separate four-story complexes with one- and two- bedroom apartments and studios – along South Main Street.
The hope of Saldana and others is for the homeless shelter along Industrial Avenue to be around long enough to segue into the opening of the proposed development.
The Mobile Revival Family Resource Center is available by logging on to www.innercityaction.org.