Modesto leaders Tuesday could formally support a proposal to open a shelter and day center for the homeless near downtown, which would operate for as long as three years until more comprehensive services are started.
The City Council two weeks ago informally supported the proposal after hearing a presentation, but council members also had lots of questions, including how the facility will be kept safe, how it will be operated, and what steps will be taken to ensure it does not harm its neighbors.
Those behind the project — which includes Stanislaus County — are working out these and other details. The project is part of Focus on Prevention, the initiative the county launched about three years ago to engage the entire community in dealing with some of the area's most stubborn problems.
The council formed a committee to meet with project organizers, and the committee is recommending the seven-member council pass a resolution Tuesday in support of the vision for this project.
"I think a lot of the questions we have are in the process of being addressed or have been addressed," said Councilman Mani Grewal, who serves on the committee with Councilwomen Jenny Kenoyer and Kristi Ah You.
The committee met with organizers, including county Supervisor Terry Withrow, last week and will continue to meet with them. "We hope we can get the Modesto City Council, just like the (county) Board of Supervisors, to give us a vote of confidence," Withrow said.
While council members appeared to support the proposal two weeks ago, Mayor Ted Brandvold raised questions about the location and has suggested two locations outside of the city on county property. County CEO Jody Hayes has said it would take considerably more time and effort to make those locations work.
Organizers have said they hope the shelter and day center could open as soon as June.
The project's proposed location 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.
Stanislaus Food Products Senior Vice President Bill Hudelson reiterated the tomato cannery's position Monday that it does not yet have enough information to make a decision. He has said the shelter and day center cannot harm Stanislaus Food Product's operations, especially during canning season, or its neighbors.
Officials have thanked Stanislaus Food Products for at least considering being part of the project.
The proposal is to open a 60-bed low-barrier shelter and day center that would provide limited services. 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.
Proponents say the project offers new services for the homeless at a time when homelessness has become a crisis throughout California, including here. It also is a temporary project that would be in place for as long as three years.
That would give the county and its partners time to develop and open a permanent access center, which offers a full range of services, with the goal of moving the homeless into permanent housing. Part of the work includes determining the center's location.
"We have to do something," Grewal said about the homelessness crisis.
He added it's important the city support the current proposal. "I don't want Modesto to be the scapegoat if it falls apart," he said. "I just feel that Modesto has to start (realizing) its potential. Modesto cannot stay stagnant regarding homelessness, economic development and public safety. We just have to move forward."
Withrow said he is confident organizers can work out the remaining details and the project will become a reality. He said organizers have been working on this for about a year and a lot of hard work and planning have gone into the effort.
The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.