Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and Modesto City Council unanimously approved a new partnership effort that will provide 180 additional shelter beds for local homeless. The proposal was drafted over the past several months by the Stanislaus County Chief Executive Office, Salvation Army and City of Modesto leadership, with the Focus on Prevention Stewardship Council, consisting of community members, area nonprofits such as the Stanislaus Community Foundation, Turning Point and United Way of Stanislaus County, along with other partners providing critical input.
This shelter expansion will require 18,000 square feet of space in the current Salvation Army Berberian Center on 9th and D streets in Modesto. The project will be funded by private donors, the City of Modesto, Stanislaus Community Foundation investment dollars and a considerable portion of the state Homeless Emergency Assistance Program (HEAP) funding received by the County earlier this month totaling over $7 million dollars. Roughly $4 million will be invested in this project. Site renovations will be required to accommodate 180 new shelter beds at the site.
Increasing affordable housing, starting with transitional shelter housing is critical to addressing our homelessness crisis. Supportive services made available through a Stanislaus County Access Center which will be located adjacent to the Salvation Army Shelter will provide mental health services, case management, and a convenient connection to social services that can help this population find stability.
While an estimated 400 homeless individuals have established camp in Modesto’s Beard Brook Park over the past 5 months, these residents are currently being relocated to an official Emergency Low-barrier Shelter (Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter) set up beneath the 9th Street Bridge, just South of the Park. Over half of the homeless occupants of Beard Brook Park have been registered to the new site, occupying nearly 200 tents. More capacity through additional tents is being created as weather permits. The Stanislaus County Outreach and Engagement Team and Turning Point, the new site management organization are currently assigning tents and registering occupants. Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter is only open to homeless individuals who were camping at Beard Brook Park.
While the City and County have worked tirelessly on solutions to the homeless crisis, the understanding has been that success is only possible through partnership. According to Modesto City Manager Joe Lopez, “Government alone is not the solution to the homeless crisis, and we must rely on other public and private partners in bringing resources to the table.”
A comprehensive set of recommendations was brought to the County Supervisors and City Council for approval on February 26th, representing months of analysis and planning to determine the best use of limited City and County resources.
“Six months ago, we came before the Board of Supervisors to initiate an ongoing public discussion on the challenge of homelessness in Stanislaus County- the options and choices our community must make in order to respond to this challenge. Much has changed in that last six months, but our core mission has remained the same, to implement the Access Center vision and to establish a community-wide delivery system for addressing the challenge of homelessness in Stanislaus County,” said County CEO Jody Hayes.
Hayes also added perspective to the challenge, noting that most of the recent attention has focused on issues related to temporary emergency shelters. While these issues typically generate the most discussion, they are only the first step in a much larger discussion and strategic planning effort that needs to occur within our community. What the County is referring to as the “housing continuum” includes the major components from temporary emergency shelters, to transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and market rate housing.
“The true work of our community will only begin when we shift our focus to a discussion on the larger housing challenge before us,” said Hayes. “Building shelters to warehouse people is not our solution. The plan to develop 180 additional emergency shelter beds alone will not solve our homeless challenge in Stanislaus County, not even close. We need a more comprehensive strategy to include not just emergency shelters, but transitional housing to move individuals out of shelters and ultimately permanent housing options that reflect the incomes of our region.”
Since the Modesto Emergency Outdoor Shelter is only a temporary solution, mandated to be returned to Tuolumne River Gateway by the end of this calendar year, we must work together to plan for long-term tactic for addressing the affordable housing shortage. The County will continue to explore alternative housing options in the coming months. Ongoing strategy discussions with each of the nine cities in the County will help establish a framework for regional planning to prepare our community for current and future housing needs.