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Dec 07

What's Next for Beard Brook Park and Modesto's Homeless?

Posted on December 7, 2018 at 4:40 PM by Thomas Reeves

Short-Term Homeless Stabilization Plan

Beard Brook Park
As a result of the Federal Ninth Circuit Court ruling, the Senior Executive Team for the City of Modesto made an executive decision to allow for camping at Beard Brook Park as a temporary solution in September.  Following this decision, the homeless community has gradually increased at the Park. 

Despite some significant benefits that this has provided to the homeless population, service providers, and the community at-large, this strategy was always intended to be the first step in a short-term plan, and is now being restructured.  Here's why:
  • Since September, the population has grown to over 400 people, including approximately 17 children
  • Calls for police and fire service have gradually increased at the park
  • Public health concerns related to hygiene and weather
  • Current camping location at Beard Brook Park is on a slope and is subject to rain runoff
  • Fire-related and air quality concerns
I'm pleased to announce a package of efforts underway to start a new chapter in providing for the homeless.  With Stanislaus County as a critical partner in this endeavor, next week begins a new series of actions aimed at tackling homelessness head-on.  Together, we're bringing the homeless issue from the backyard to the front yard.  

Tuolumne River Regional Park Gateway Parcel Homeless Camp
The city is recommending relocating the homeless community several hundred feet into the Tuolumne River Regional Park Gateway area that is larger and flatter (and closer to a bridge for minimal shelter, I might add). 

The relocation would be supported with weather-proof uniformed tents, additional support from Turning Point (more on Turning Point later) to manage the area as a shelter, outreach and engagement services from the County, and the development of fundraising strategies for continuous support for the homeless community.  

The goal for this outdoor location is to serve as a temporary alternative to the shelters that are being explored by the City and the County; and to support the County and homeless service providers in identifying each individual to assess their situation and provide daily case management services to help break the cycle of homelessness. 

Turning Point
One thing we've learned through this process of allowing camping at the park is we need a full-time partner who can more closely monitor the organization of the camp, including donations, which we know is so important to our community.  The County will be entering into an agreement with the Turning Point organization to provide the following services:
  • Coordination of safety and security
  • Coordination of volunteerism and donations
  • Supportive services such as case management
  • Rehabilitative opportunities to support the transition out of homelessness
Donations for Beard Brook Park Homeless
To address the issues and needs of the homeless population at the park, efforts, resources, and partnerships beyond what government can provide will be required.  In addition to mobilizing the community to support the site improvements and operations, the United Way has agreed to accept fiscal donations from the community to provide basic needs supplies. 

While not ready just yet, financial donations will be promoted and directed to the United Way to support the operator in purchasing and distributing basic needs supplies.  In addition, Turning Point will establish a donation process for other, tangible/physical donations as needed.  The establishment of both processes will improve the opportunities for the community to effectively and efficiently support individuals staying at the park. 

Focus on Prevention will also engage the community in supporting efforts at the new site, encouraging support and donations towards the established operator.  This will increase the opportunities for community support to be leveraged and maximized to serve homeless community members now and in the near future.

Salvation Army Shelter Expansion

Indoor and Outdoor Expansion
The city is exploring an expansion to the shelter capacity of Salvation Army with approximately 150 additional beds inside and outside the facility footprint.  To support this expansion, the Salvation Army is open to adjusting their shelter guest criteria to ensure that it meets the requirements of a Federal Ninth Circuit Court ruling. 

Access Center 
The homeless access center will be designed to be a one-stop shop for the homeless community to receive wrap-around services.  The County, City of Modesto, and Focus on Prevention partners will be working with Salvation Army to co-locate the service providers that will establish the 9th & D Street site as the Access Center.  These service providers will include a mix of county, county contractors, and community-based nonprofits. 

Additionally, the Salvation Army facility located on 7th and I Street is for sale, and the County and City are exploring options for purchasing and repurposing this facility as a family shelter. 

Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP)
The state's Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) is a $500 million grant designed to provide direct assistance to cities, counties, and Continuums of Care (CoC) to address the homelessness crisis throughout California.  The Stanislaus Community System of Care (CSOC), is eligible to receive $7,236,985.95 in HEAP funding, and the City of Modesto is eligible to receive the benefits of this funding, upon declaration of a shelter crisis.  

Shelter Crisis
In order for a city to obtain HEAP funding, the city is required to declare a shelter crisis through a resolution adopted by the City Council finding that a “significant number of persons within the jurisdiction are without the ability to obtain shelter, and that it has resulted in a threat to the health and safety of those persons.”  Any jurisdiction that does not declare a shelter crisis is ineligible to be a direct recipient of HEAP funds. 

The Modesto City Council will consider declaring a shelter crisis at the December 11th council meeting.

Downtown Streets Team (DST)
The Downtown Streets Team program aims to end homelessness through workforce training, employment, and employer pipelines.  The DST program provides homeless individuals with volunteer opportunities for beautification projects around the community.  In exchange for volunteer efforts, the DST participants receive weekly stipend cards that cover everything from bus passes, phone service, food, medication, enrollment fees for employment training courses.  If implemented in Modesto, this program will support up to 25 homeless individuals. 

This is another example of an innovative public, private partnership, as the financial burden of this program will be shared by the city, county, the Community Foundation, and other public and private funders.

This, too, will be considered at the Council meeting on December 11th. 

In Closing
The city cannot combat homelessness without relying on the innovative and collaborative efforts by partners such as the county, the Community Foundation, CSOC, United Way, Salvation Army, and many others.  We're presenting a robust package of efforts to the community, and we anticipate learning and retooling plenty along the way to success.  Remember, the ultimate goal is to help break the cycle of homelessness, and your team is prepared to tackle that in many new ways.  

We have an incredibly compassionate community, and I remain encouraged by all those who truly desire to help with this critical issue.  This is how we reimagine government, by harnessing our power to work together, get out of the traditional "government" mindset, and get creative.