Turlock takes step 1 to house homeless

TURLOCK — City Hall is moving forward with a transitional housing project, but not without the collaboration of local housing experts, homeless advocates and the faith-based community.

Unlike a shelter, transitional housing is a home or apartment offered to down-and-out individuals or families at low or no cost. Participants usually have to meet some requirements, such as passing drug tests and either being employed or looking for work. Shelters usually house people short-term and get them off the street immediately.

With help from service providers for the homeless and low-income, city staff will draft a public request for a transitional housing development, City Council ruled Tuesday night.

There's upward of $4.4 million in state-allocated dollars that could go toward dedicated single-family homes, an apartment-style complex or other transitional housing options. Running parallel to that plan, a "grass-roots action committee" will be formed to take a more comprehensive look at homelessness, which could include a transitional housing element, or plans for a permanent shelter, among other homeless-oriented programs.

Two years ago, the City Council hired the Center for Public Policy at California State University, Stanislaus, for $70,000 to evaluate community opinions on homelessness. City officials, homeless people, shelter workers, businesspeople and church leaders met regularly for almost a year hashing through myriad homelessness issues. The report was issued late last summer and recommended forming the committee.

"The city needs a comprehensive plan. Nothing piecemeal, but comprehensive," said Chris Kiriakou, a board member for the newly founded Turlock Gospel Mission. "A more grass-roots level of involvement would be the start."

Bill Fagen, director of the Stanislaus County Housing Authority, suggested bringing together all the groups working on homelessness in Turlock to craft the public request for a transitional housing project. A coordinated effort has a greater chance of success, and the need is strong, he said.

Thousands signed up, waiting

More than 4,000 people in Stanislaus County are signed up for Section 8 low-income housing, Fagen said. The waiting list has 5,000 people on it.

"My gut tells me (transitional housing) will be a major component of the overall homeless plan," said City Manager Tim Kerr.

The committee, organized by the university and made up of many involved in the original study, will draft that plan. Formation of the group and a small funding request should go before the City Council next month.

Before transitional housing was discussed Tuesday night, a 96-unit low-income housing project was approved at Monte Vista Avenue and Crowell Road.

Affordable Housing Development Corp. will put in one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging from about $300 to $900 in monthly rent, depending on apartment and family size, said Amber Herzog Lyman, the project manager.

The apartments will share a lot with a Rite Aid pharmacy, which is under construction, and will be connected to Rotary International Park, on Crowell, through pedestrian footpaths.

Affordable Housing Development Corp. previously built Crane Terrace, an affordable senior living community on Canal Drive.

Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at mshea@modbee.com or 578-2391.

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