The Salvation Armys winter shelter debuted its roughly $1million upgrade Monday evening to an appreciative group: the 40 homeless men and women who checked into the facility near downtown Modesto.
I like it, said 23-year-old Anthony Flores, who said he has been homeless for about two years after getting out of jail. We have a lot of space to chill and talk. Its a lot more roomy.
Monday was the first night for this years winter shelter, which typically closes in late April. The shelter has 75 beds for men and 25 for women. Salvation Army officials expect the number of homeless checking into the shelter to increase as word spreads on the street that it is open and nights become colder.
The Salvation Army received about $1million from the state to upgrade its Berberian Homeless Shelter and Transitional Living Center at Ninth and D streets. The center also operates two 20-bed transitional living programs.
Work on the upgrade started last year and included new dorms with new beds; a new dining room that includes space for a chapel, recreation area and gym; and installing more security cameras. The shelter is also lowering part of the ceiling to reduce heating and air-conditioning bills in the cavernous former food-processing warehouse.
Work continues on building a kitchen.
Salvation Army officials said the upgrade has made the facility look and feel less like a former warehouse and more like a home. They added that the facility also is much safer for clients.
John Phelan, 41, said he likes that the center is safer. He said it has a mellower vibe than other homeless shelters. He attributes much of that to staff members who treat the homeless with respect. Being here is a blessing, he said.
Operations manager Walt Wycoff said the shelter has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol, drugs, fighting and bullying. He said any client caught violating the policy is not allowed back for the entire winter season. He said just a handful of clients violated the rules last season.
As they were being checked in Monday evening, the homeless were given a breathalyzer test and a scanned with a metal-detecting wand for knives, needles and other contraband. They also were checked for signs of drug use, such as dilated pupils.
After checking in, the men and women relaxed for a while before showering and then eating a dinner of noodles with beef, corn, salad and peaches washed down with water. Dinner was prepared at The Salvation Armys Modesto Citadel Corps at Seventh and I streets. The homeless then had more time to visit with one another, read books or magazines or watch the shelters one TV before lights out at 9 p.m.
They would leave the shelter at 7 this morning after a breakfast of coffee and doughnuts or pastries.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.