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Modesto backs homeless shelter plan, but mayor raises questions

Modesto mayor Ted Brandvold listens to the presentation from Focus on Prevention on the plan for a temporary low-barrier homeless shelter during a council meeting in February.
Modesto mayor Ted Brandvold listens to the presentation from Focus on Prevention on the plan for a temporary low-barrier homeless shelter during a council meeting in February. Andy Alfaro/Modesto Bee file

Modesto leaders are backing a proposal to open a temporary, 60-bed homeless shelter and day center near downtown, which could open as soon as June and be in place for as long as three years until a permanent facility with more services opens.

The City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday evening in favor of “supporting the vision of an immediate action plan for a temporary low barrier emergency shelter/day center with minimal supportive services (shelter) for the homeless population,” according to the resolution passed by the council.

While Mayor Ted Brandvold voted “yes,” he still has reservations. He has said he does not favor the proposed location — on Stanislaus Food Products land near The Salvation Army’s Berberian Center — and has suggested two other locations on county-owned property outside of the city. The county has said those locations would take much more effort and time.

(The project is part of Focus on Prevention, the initiative the county launched about three years ago to engage the community in dealing with some of the area’s most stubborn problems.)

“I am still concerned regarding the proposed location in our downtown and the potential impact on our citizens, businesses and industry in the area,” according to a statement issued by the mayor.

Brandvold also questioned the county in his statement.

“While the county says that it would take too long to develop other potential sites, the county has stated that it has taken 2 1/2 years to get to this point in this project.

“This should make us wonder why we don’t have a permanent plan before us instead of a proposed temporary plan. My hope is that the county immediately works to identify and diligently pursue a permanent site so we are not forced into an urgent situation again.”

The county and shelter proponents did work on a project for a temporary shelter that was abandoned because of the cost before moving on to this effort about a year ago.

County officials have stressed this project is for a temporary shelter that will provide immediate relief for the homeless crisis while they work on the permanent solution: opening an access center that will offer comprehensive services with the goal of moving the homeless into permanent housing.

There still are details to be worked out for the temporary project to become a reality, though organizers say they are confident they can do that. Those details include leasing the land from Stanislaus Food Products. The tomato cannery has said it wants to help but only if it can be assured the project will not harm it and its neighbors.

Other council members also raised concerns but spoke about the need to address the homeless crisis now, and their confidence in those working on the project.

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