The Turlock City Council agreed to extend a local homeless center's lease on Tuesday, but for less time than requested after nearby residents voiced concerns.
For the past two years, the Turlock Gospel Mission has operated its Homeless Assistance Ministry center in the City of Turlock's Youth Center, located at 1030 East Ave. The center offers local homeless people a place to go during the day – and an opportunity to turn their lives around. Tens of people have gotten jobs and permanent housing as a result of the center.
But when TGM first opened the center, nearby residents were assured the lease was only temporary. The mission would relocate, Turlockers were told, once TGM could construct a permanent facility of its own.
As TGM's two-year lease was due for renewal this week, some nearby residents contacted Turlock City Councilmember Amy Bublak to voice their concerns with the apparent lack of progress on a permanent site. They feared that the HAM center may become a permanent fixture at 1030 East Ave.
“I want to know that they're doing something,” Bublak said, summarizing constituents' comments. “They said they were going to leave, but they haven't.”
Bublak commended TGM for being good neighbors and keeping up the property, noting her comments were “not about shutting (Turlock Gospel Mission) down and closing the doors.” She said she wanted to show constituents that both the city and TGM were being responsible, and that the mission was working toward a permanent facility.
Turlock Gospel Mission is actively pursing the development of a full-time shelter, board member Chris Kiriakou said, on a TGM-owned lot at 437 S. Broadway. The mission has spent about one-third of the funds needed to complete engineering work, needed prior to obtaining city building permits.
But the community-funded TGM lacks funding to complete engineering work at the moment, as donations trail off during the summer months. Currently, the mission is struggling just to keep the doors open.
“That's really the issue,” Kiriakou said.
Councilmembers agreed with both sides of the issue: residents deserve updates, and the Turlock Gospel Mission needs some certainty that it will be allowed to continue operations.
“I think the neighbors do want some sense of progress, and they do want some time-line that will be adhered to,” said Councilmember Steven Nascimento.
As a compromise, the mission's lease was extended for one year rather than the two requested. Should the mission need to operate for a fourth year in the Turlock Youth Center site, it would need to seek council permission.
The updated lease also reflects improvements TGM has made to the facility, the value of which will be offset against lease payments.
The TGM lease is just one of many issues related to homelessness affecting the community, Turlock Mayor John Lazar said. And the chronic presence of homeless individuals living in Denair Park warrants council attention, he said.
“I think it's about time we had that discussion at the council level,” Lazar said, “because I continue to get contacted about the loitering that goes on at that park. It's unacceptable. It's gone on too long.”
The Turlock City Council is expected to discuss the Denair Park situation during a September meeting.