Monday Q&A: Her call of duty is helping Stanislaus County homeless

etracy@modbee.comApril 21, 2013 

    Erin Tracy
    Title: Breaking news reporter
    Coverage areas: Breaking news, crime
    Bio: Erin Tracy started working for The Bee in September 2010. She has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University and previously worked at the Daily Democrat in Woodland and the Times-Standard in Eureka.
    Recent stories written by Erin
    On Twitter: @ModestoBeeCrime

— Every night, The Salvation Army's homeless shelter provides a safe place for men and woman to sleep.

The charity helps find housing for veterans and people who have been institutionalized or living on the street for more than a year.

Most recently, The Salvation Army has started a dental and optical clinic that has equipped 25 clients with prescription glasses and soon will assist them with dental care.

One of the key players behind all of these services is Capt. Lisa Smith, who is approaching her first year as the manager of Modesto's Berberian Shelter and Transitional Housing. She came to the Northern San Joaquin Valley from San Francisco's Tenderloin district, where she ran a multiprogram housing project.

Smith talked to The Bee about her work and gave insight into the lives of the homeless.

Q: What made you want to work with the homeless?

A: I have been involved with homeless programs for the past 15 years; to me, it is important to make sure people know that God is available for all people, regardless of circumstances. I believe in taking care of the people who can't take care of themselves.

Q: What is the most challenging and most rewarding part about working with the homeless?

A: The best part of working with the homeless is seeing the positive changes when they happen. The most difficult part is seeing the return to addictions and other destructive behaviors after a period of doing well.

Q: What is the most common misconception people have about the homeless?

A: Many people feel that all homeless people are addicts or mentally ill or that they like the homeless lifestyle. All of those are true to a degree, but in reality, anyone can become homeless, and a lot of our clients had homes and were working until the economy tanked.

Q: What are your thoughts about Modesto's illegal camping ordinance?

A: Modesto's illegal camping policy is a good law in principle, but tough to enforce. Also, it is only us and the (Modesto) Gospel Mission that provide sheltering services, so there are still people who need shelter. There also needs to be more shelter for families.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at or (209) 578-2366.

The Monday Q&A introduces Bee readers to members of the community who make a significant contribution to the public good but rarely make an appearance in regular Bee coverage. If you know of someone who might make a good subject for Q&A, email the name and contact information to Bee local news editor Deke Farrow at

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