The Modesto City Council on Tuesday night resoundingly supported a proposal to open a temporary shelter and day center near downtown, which would offer new services for the homeless and could be operating as soon as June.
But the key word is proposal. Council members raised many questions, including how the shelter and center will be kept safe and sanitary, who will operate them, how they will be operated, and what steps will be taken to ensure they do not harm nearby businesses. Those behind the project — which includes Stanislaus County — are working out these and other details.
Council members did not take a vote but weighed in with questions and comments after hearing a presentation. “We’re very encouraged by what we heard from the council tonight,” county CEO Jody Hayes said. “It appears we have a very willing partner in the city of Modesto.”
The council will form a committee to keep appraised of the answers to the council’s questions. The proposed location for the shelter and day center is on Stanislaus Food Products land behind The Salvation Army’s Berberian Center at Ninth and D Streets. The land would be leased from the tomato cannery, but no deal has been reached.
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Stanislaus Food Products Senior Vice President Bill Hudelson said the tomato cannery does not yet have enough information to make a decision. He said Stanislaus Food wants to make sure there are no adverse impacts to its business — especially during canning season — and its neighbors. But Stanislaus Food Products was thanked for being willing to consider doing this.
Mayor Ted Brandvold was the holdout on the council. He reiterated his position that the project should be somewhere else. He has suggested two locations outside of the city on property owned by Stanislaus County. “I’m not against this project,” he said. “The concern I’ve had is the location of this project. ... It’s still a concern.”
He has said he is worried the shelter and day center will draw more homeless people to Modesto and its downtown.
But Councilman Doug Ridenour said earlier in the meeting that “this is a city of Modesto problem. We need to be involved in it, and not farm it out.” The 2017 annual homeless count tallied 1,661 homeless people throughout the county, including 1,221 in Modesto. The results of this year’s count have not yet been released.
The proposal is to open a 60-bed low-barrier shelter and day center for no more than three years. Services would be offered to the homeless. Unlike traditional ones, low-barrier shelters take in partners, pets and possessions. And the homeless who stay at the shelter would not be required to leave during the day.
The shelter and day center are part of Focus on Prevention, the initiative the county launched to engage the entire community in finding solutions to some of the area’s most vexing problems, including homelessness.
The project has garnered deep support, including from the United Way and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, which has pledged $1 million toward building the shelter and day center. The county would provide United Way with $2.5 million in state money to operate the shelter and day center for three years.
Proponents say the temporary project is critical because it provides immediate help while the county develops a permanent solution — an access center with comprehensive services and temporary housing for the homeless, with the goal of moving them into permanent housing.