MODESTO — The Salvation Army and Modesto Gospel Mission could team up to open the city's first day center, a place where the homeless could get off the streets and get help to turn their lives around.
This potential partnership is in the very early stages, and many questions need to be answered. Officials with the two agencies have agreed to have their boards meet to discuss working together, with The Salvation Army providing the site and the Gospel Mission providing the staffing and funding.
Such a partnership would represent a historic level of cooperation between the two Modesto nonprofits, which have tended to go their own ways in the past, and set the stage for further collaborations between them and other nonprofits and faith-based groups.
The idea came out of a Tuesday meeting in Turlock with representatives of Turlock Gospel Mission, which opened a day center for the homeless nearly a year ago.
In addition to officials from The Salvation Army and Modesto Gospel Mission, the meeting included Modesto Councilmen Joe Muratore and John Gunderson.
Turlock Gospel Mission officials laid out the challenges and rewards of opening a day center and the importance of partnering with city officials and other nonprofits and faith-based groups.
They also gave Salvation Army and Modesto Gospel Mission officials a pep talk, telling them that because of their good works, they have the credibility and donor support needed to launch a day center.
"You are very reputable," Turlock Gospel Mission Executive Director Tim Guerino said. "You have a base of donors who will support you."
Establishing a day center is one of the top five recommendations from the September 2011 report issued by Modesto's Blue Ribbon Panel on Homelessness.
A day center would provide the homeless with a safe place to spend their days and would get them off the streets, out of parks and other public spaces, where they can become a nuisance because of drinking, panhandling and fighting. Currently, services during the day for the homeless in Modesto are limited to the meals provided by several organizations.
The Turlock day center is filled with comfortable couches, books and computers. But the homeless there work with case managers, who ensure they get the help they need. For instance, the homeless can work with literacy volunteers; get help applying for identification and other official documents they need to apply for work or benefits; and get help accessing counseling and medication for mental health issues. The case managers also work to place the homeless in housing.
Several homeless people hanging out at the park next to Ralston Tower near downtown Modesto on Thursday said a day center would be a positive step.
"So many places don't like the homeless," said Rita Wallace, 49, who said she's been on the streets since 2007. "It would give the homeless a place to go where they would not be harassed."
Some 35 to 70 homeless people use the Turlock center daily. It costs about $180,000 annually to run the center, which is funded through donations. The center partners with other nonprofits. For instance, United Samaritans Foundation lets the day center's homeless take a shower and wash their clothes once a week. Turlock Gospel Mission also has a close working relationship with City Hall.
A homeless center in Modesto has the support of Councilmen Muratore, Gunderson and Dave Geer, who attended a previous meeting regarding the day center.
It also has the support of Salvation Army Capt. Michael Paugh, who is the army's Stanislaus County coordinator, and Modesto Gospel Mission board Chairman Ken Darby. The two attended Tuesday's meeting and agreed to set up a meeting between their two boards.
"This is something we need," Paugh said.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.