We hope that the Modesto Gospel Mission and The Salvation Army, two of our community's most reputable helping agencies, are able to put together a partnership to operate a day center for the homeless a step that would show compassion to the hundreds of people on the streets and that would ease the challenge on libraries, parks and other public facilities that have become de facto campsites.
The army and the mission offer overnight shelter to many homeless and have been doing so for many years. Our community is lucky to have them. While a day center collaboration is not yet a done deal, we are optimistic about the potential for several reasons:
The organizations are experienced and expert in this kind of social service, recognizing that the goal is not to encourage people to depend on handouts but to work their way out of homelessness.
The center would be operated by nonprofits and supported by donations rather than by tax dollars.
The Turlock Gospel Mission is offering an example and encouragement. It was only a few years ago that Turlock had a dearth of homeless services and an attitude among some that providing services would only attract the homeless. For much of 2008, this was a contentious issue on the Turlock City Council. Today, Turlock has a variety of seasonal and year-round programs.
Establishing a day center in Modesto was high on the list of recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, and appears to have the support of city leaders, which will make it easier to get such a center open if and when the mission and the army reach a working arrangement.
The mission board is scheduled to talk about this concept Friday, according to chairman Ken Darby. He hopes the two boards can get together within a couple of weeks. The mission also hopes to have a new executive director in place by March or April, and the responsibility for developing this idea would fall to that person, Darby said.
Collaboration on ongoing projects like this is never easy, but we are confident the leaders of these two nonprofits will try their best to make it work.