Homeless mobile outreach planned for Modesto

kvaline@modbee.comAugust 29, 2013 

DN homeless day center

Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com The main room at the Turlock Gospel Mission's Homeless Assistance Ministry, day center at 1030 East Avenue in Turlock. (3-1-12)

DEBBIE NODA — Modesto Bee Buy Photo

    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
    Recent stories written by Kevin
    E-mail: kvaline@modbee.com

— The people trying to open a homeless day center in Modesto have refocused their efforts and first want to start a van service that would provide mobile outreach to the homeless.

The van would be staffed by caseworkers who would respond to complaints about the homeless that are not a high priority for the police, such as public drunkenness and aggressive panhandling.

The caseworkers also would work with the homeless on the streets, drive them to shelters and agencies, and make appointments.

For instance, caseworkers could help a homeless man schedule an appointment at the VA Clinic to apply for veterans benefits and drive him there the day of his appointment.

This is the latest development in the effort to start a day center in Modesto. Creating such a center is one of the top five recommendations from the September 2011 report issued by the city's Blue Ribbon Panel on Homelessness.

The center would provide the homeless with a safe place to spend their days, take a shower, wash their clothes and eat a meal. It is hoped it would get them off the streets and out of parks and other public spaces.

The homeless also could work with caseworkers to access services through other agencies to get their Social Security card, move into permanent housing or enter drug and alcohol rehab programs.

"We are not giving up on the day center," Turlock Gospel Mission board President Chris Kiriakou said. "We want to better define the need and better understand what the community wants."

Modesto City Councilman John Gunderson has been a strong advocate of the day center but supports the change in focus.

"I think it's a very smart strategy," he said. "It gives Turlock a chance to establish a track record here. It's a great start."

The Turlock Gospel Mission has been leading the effort to start a day center in Modesto in part because it started a center in its city in February 2012. The mission had hoped the Modesto Gospel Mission and The Salvation Army's Modesto Citadel Corps would lead the effort in Modesto.

About six months ago, the two Modesto nonprofits agreed to explore whether they could partner on the project. But since then, the two have brought in new leadership and have decided to opt out.

Officials with the three nonprofits say they have not had a falling out.

It will cost about $180,000 to acquire, equip and staff a van for one year. The van would operate 24/7.

Kiriakou said the Turlock Gospel Mission is in Modesto because community members have asked for its help. He said his nonprofit needs to go slower because it does not know Modesto as well as it knows Turlock.

"This approach will allow us to understand the (homeless) population better," he said.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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