Modesto joins Stanislaus in support of 180-bed homeless shelter

The Salvation Army Berberian Shelter on Ninth Street in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.
The Salvation Army Berberian Shelter on Ninth Street in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.

Modesto’s elected officials have joined their Stanislaus County colleagues in supporting a multimillion-dollar plan to provide more help for the homeless, including opening a 180-bed shelter at The Salvation Army’s Berberian Center near downtown.

City Council members voted 7-0 at their Tuesday evening meeting in favor of the proposal, which will obligate the city to provide as much as $378,326 in infrastructure improvements. A city report also says Modesto will provide $350,000 of its federal Community Development Block Grant money toward operating the shelter.

County supervisors voted 5-0 at their Tuesday morning meeting in support of the plan. It includes putting an access center offering the homeless comprehensive services in modular buildings on city land next to the Berberian Center at Ninth and D streets.

Council members and supervisors approved a drafted memorandum of understanding. The final version is expected to go to The Salvation Army’s Western Territorial Headquarters in Southern California on March 7 for approval along with associated agreements, including one in which the county would lease space from the army for the 180-bed shelter.

The Salvation Army would continue to operate its 120-bed traditional homeless shelter at its Berberian Center.

Unlike a traditional shelter, the county’s 180-bed shelter would take in couples, pets and possessions. People could stay at the shelter for as long as six months as they receive services, including help getting into housing. The county expects to hire Turning Point Community Programs to operate the shelter.

The proposal includes the county buying The Salvation Army’s building at Seventh and I streets in downtown that now houses the army’s administration and social services. The army also serves lunch weekdays and breakfast weekends there.

The county would relocate the army to a modular building at the Berberian Center site and could convert the building at Seventh and I into transitional housing for youths or families. Supervisors could approve the building’s purchase for $1.25 million as well as a plan to pay for the purchase at their April 2 meeting.

The county plans on spending $4 million of the $7.2 million in Homeless Emergency Aid Programs the state recently awarded to the Stanislaus Community System of Care for this proposal, as well as about $1 million of the $2.5 million in state funding Assemblyman Adam Gray secured for the county about two years ago to address the homelessness crisis.

The 180-bed shelter would replace the tent city that went up in September in Beard Brook Park and now is being relocated a couple of hundred yards away to under the Ninth Street Bridge in the Tuolumne River Regional Park. The new homeless camp is expected to operate no later than June 30, though that might be extended to Aug. 15.

The tent city has been home to more than 400 people, but officials are working on more projects to increase shelter and housing for the homeless.

The 180-bed shelter could open by this fall if not sooner, provided the plan is approved by The Salvation Army, according to county Deputy Executive Officer Ruben Imperial.

Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and grew up in San Jose.