STOCKTON, Calif. — 54-year-old Paul Camarena has been homeless for more than eight years, he knows the difficulties of living on the streets in Stockton.
"Make sure you have warmth at night, safe place to go, food, water," said Camarena.
But, the former fork-lift driver and food processor is hopeful he can get a bed at the Stockton Homeless Shelter's planned expansion.
"It's clean," added Camarena. "You may even get a tv you know, a shower anytime you want."
The shelter plans to add a three-story, 90-bed men's facility created from shipping containers. The $4.5 million, 30,000 square foot project is a first of its kind collaboration between the City of Stockton, San Joaquin County and the county's Continuum of Care.
"About a nine-month project," said Stockton Shelter for the Homeless CEO, JoLyn McMillan. "They're going to start building our storage freights off in Arizona. And, after Arizona, they're going to come back here and assemble them."
Not only will there be more beds provided for men, but a one-stop service navigation center as well.
"We will have people like behavioral health out here, substance abuse treatment out here, housing services out here, food services out here," said McMillan.
Bill Mendelson of Central Valley Low Income Housing is all for the project, but questions if funding will be there to maintain it.
"Where those funds are going to come from to make sure that this project goes forward for an extended period of time I think is a concern of everyone's," said Mendelson.
While admitting it won't be easy, the shelter is confident it will make it work. Ironically, throughout the pandemic, shelter capacity has plummeted because of fears of covid. With the exception of one outbreak last July, the shelter says it is keeping its space clean and safe.
"So I would encourage anybody that is experiencing homelessness to get to the shelter as quickly as you can, save your resources," said McMillan.
For Paul Camarana, who says he is happy with a daughter doing well in college, his dream in life is simply to help others.
"Not for love, not for anything else, just because," said Camarena.
The shelter hopes to complete the project by the end of the year, but it may be as long as a year to finish.
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