By January 1, 2017 Read More →

CommunityView: Fighting Poverty & Homelessness in 2017

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As we look ahead to 2017 in our focus on prevention of homelessness, we must first take stock of what led us here. David Moore was one of 39 people remembered on December 21, the first night of winter and longest night of the year, when the Salvation Army hosted the Not Forgotten homeless persons memorial honoring those who died experiencing homelessness in Stanislaus County in 2016. I’ll never forget how Kristi Ah You coordinated a memorial at Franklin and Downs after David passed away from cancer March 8.

I never knew David Moore, but I first met his best friend, Scott Hunt, through David Lambert’s Facebook group, “Homelessness & Poverty in Stanislaus”. Scott was there for him to the end, and members of the group did what they could to give support during Moore’s final days.

Lambert, who also leads the Modesto chapter of Guardian Angels, has this wish for 2017: “for cities to start taking some accountability for what happens on their watch. … I want to hear someone say, ‘We caused this with our shortsighted policies and our selfishness. Now we are going to change it.’”

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The first name on the list of people remembered at Not Forgotten was Nicholas Kliewer, the victim of what appears to be vehicular homicide on December 17. In this City of Great Neighbors, we appear to have let – and even caused – some of our neighbors to fall by the wayside.

That is our reality despite the County’s Focus on Prevention initiative that began in May of 2015, and now includes excellent Neighborhood Homelessness Engagement Training that is starting to take off. Have you ever noticed that when you first start addressing a problem, it sometimes gets much worse before it gets better?

There do appear to be positive changes on the horizon, and there have been forward steps along the way. I have been very encouraged by Councilmember Ah You’s comments on homelessness and Laura’s Law during the July 5 Council meeting (you can still watch it on modestogov.com), as well as Mayor Brandvold’s presence at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle in August.

Since December of 2014, when I met with Councilmember Jenny Kenoyer regarding her push for resource center for the unsheltered in Modesto, I have been chomping at the bit with every sign of progress. City Council finally approved $250,000 in funding for an Access Center in October. All can attend a visioning and planning session on January 25, 2:30–4:30pm, 2701 4th Street, Ceres (Ceres Community Center). Register here, and enjoy the details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/homeless-access-center-visioning-and-planning-session-tickets-29047207981

Regarding the low-barrier shelter projected to open late spring or early summer next to the Salvation Army Berberian Shelter on D Street, Christina Kenney with Turning Point Empowerment Center (and all around angel) assures that “there are lots of conversations around coordination and partnerships. Many agencies are at the table, every single week, some of us for several hours atop our regular contracted duties for our respective programs. At these tables we are all getting closer to reasonable expectations. As anything worth having doesn’t come easily, ensuring all contributors are heard and roles are considered is very important in these stages.”

The Housing Innovation Workgroup, in which everyone is invited to be involved, is working on increasing transitional and permanent supportive housing by building or remodeling affordable housing units, and cultivating successful landlord partnerships. The next meeting is set for January 18, 2-3pm, at 917 Oakdale Road in Modesto, Room 2 (County Learning Center). Here is a list of other opportunities to get involved: https://focusonprevention.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/meetings-and-events

In the mean-time, both the Salvation Army and Modesto Gospel Mission shelters serve as warming centers when temperatures drop below 40 degrees, or when it is raining. That also means that guests who had a bed overnight can stay in the morning until temperatures rise above 40 degrees or the rain lets up. Families can turn to Modesto Family Promise (549-9454), the abused can turn to Haven Women’s Center (577-5980), those on the brink of homelessness can request a housing list from CHSS (527-0444), and those needing to detox can do so at Stanislaus Recovery Center (541-2121).

The rest of us can watch out for our neighbors experiencing homelessness in whatever way we are called. Each one of us has something warm to bring to the table in 2017.

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About the Author:

Maryann Spikes holds an Associate of Arts degree in Humanities through Modesto Junior College, manages the Positive Modesto News page on Facebook, and enjoys coordinating Orchard Park Neighborhood Alliance under the umbrella of Modesto Neighborhoods Inc. Her favorite local coffee shop is the Queen Bean, and she calls Redeemer home. Maryann is married to her best friend, Lee, and proud mom to her teens, Ethan and David. Email Maryann at ichthus77@hotmail.com with CommunityView story ideas.