Officials are revamping their plans for two homeless projects in Modesto — an access center offering a range of services, including help with substance abuse and mental illness, and what is called a low-barrier shelter that takes in couples and pets — over concerns about their costs.
The projects are part of Focus on Prevention, an initiative Stanislaus County launched nearly two years ago to deal with homelessness. The county and city are working with others on the projects. Officials had expected the projects to be operating by now when they went public with their plans in September, but they stressed the projects remain a top priority.
“The city and the county, along with our Focus on Prevention partners, remain committed to providing these essential services and supports,” said Ruben Imperial, the community development and empowerment manager for the county CEO’s office. “That’s what we want the public to hear. Our first proposal (for the two projects) did not work out, and we are working on a second proposal.”
These projects come as concern about the homeless grows in Modesto, from those who say there are not enough shelter beds and services to help the homeless turn their lives around to those who complain about crime and vagrancy in city parks and in their neighborhoods. The results from a January 2016 count found 1,051 homeless people in Modesto, though the count was not definitive.
Officials had been working on operating the access center from a modular office building near The Salvation Army’s Haig and Isabel Berberian Shelter and Transitional Living Center at Ninth and D streets, near downtown. Modesto would pay for setting up the center, and the county would operate it. The plan called for the city to buy the modular building — which the county had been leasing — and move it near the Berberian Center, connect it to utilities and make other site improvements.
The City Council allocated as much as $350,000 for the project from federal funding Modesto receives. “We are not proceeding with the option to buy the modular and move it,” said Tina Rocha, the city’s community development manager. “As we were looking at the cost estimates, the costs were getting too high.”
Imperial said officials now are looking at operating the access center from unused office space in the Berberian Center. Modesto would cover the cost of turning the space into an access center, and the county would staff it and cover the cost of operating it.
Salvation Army advisory board member Steve Madison — who also is chairman of the board’s shelter committee — said local army officials are more than willing to consider this but have not yet received a formal proposal. He said that The Salvation Army’s Western Territorial Headquarters in Long Beach would make the final decision.
Imperial stressed that officials are looking at other options for the access center besides the Berberian Center.
Officials have planned to set up the low-barrier shelter near the Berberian Center. It would offer 40 beds in converted sheds. Unlike traditional shelters, low-barrier shelters take in couples and pets, and would be the first of this type of shelter in the county. While Modesto would provide technical and other assistance, the county would find the money for the shelter and someone to operate it.
But Imperial said officials received one proposal from a local nonprofit to operate the shelter and at a cost that exceeded the budget.
He said officials are looking at other options, including finding other potential operators — perhaps from outside of the area — or other concepts for a low-barrier shelter. Officials have said it was important to keep the access center and low-barrier shelter near each other so shelter clients could use the access center to get help.
Imperial said officials will release more details and time lines for the projects as they become available. Both projects will require approvals from the City Council and Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. He said Focus on Prevention’s Stewardship Council also will have to sign off on the projects. The council is made up of people from the community, including from business, education, health care and nonprofits.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316