TURLOCK, Calif. — The city of Turlock was working to relocate more than 50 unsheltered people from an encampment on Thursday after its city council voted to ratify a local emergency declaration dealing with the homelessness crisis during the coronavirus.
The city said in a press release the first encampment, which is located on private property, is one of three where they were working to rehome and clean up. Maryn Pitt, public information officer for Turlock, said that the Stanislaus County multi-agency service team was out at 8 a.m. Thursday, March 18, cleaning the site.
"You know, there's health and safety issues that obviously are of concern to both the city, and are of concern to the folks that are living there," Pitt said.
The city is directing people to shelter services at Turlock Gospel Mission and We Care Program Turlock. Pitt said that there are roughly 100 beds between those two shelters, and neither shelter is full at this time. The establishment of emergency declaration also allowed the city to receive help from California's Office of Emergency Services (OES). With those additional resources, the local Salvation Army has been equipped with beds and supplies for 50 more individuals in need.
The eviction of this homeless encampment and attempt to bring people inside arrives as the state of California has announced that unsheltered folks are now eligible for the vaccine.
"Interestingly, we do know that the coronavirus has run through that encampment already out there," Pitt said.
There is some concern that upon leaving the homeless encampment, there will be individuals who decide not to seek shelter at any of the options that have availability in the city.
"We would like to encourage them to go and engage in services and engage in having a housing plan to sort of move them out of the shelter into some more stabilized housing," Pitt said. "But if they so refuse those services, that is their right to do so."
According to the press release, Turlock's outreach and engagement team went out to the encampment four times in the last two weeks to provide resources and offer shelter services to those people who will have to vacate. A dumpster was also delivered to the site earlier this week.
Pitt says the clean up will likely last until Friday, March 19. She adds that about 80% of the 230 total people who are homeless in the city are from Turlock.
"Our goal as part of our request to OES is to make sure we have beds for 100% of our homeless folks as we go through encampment by encampment over the next 120 days in terms of offering services and all of that, but the goal is to get as many people sheltered and have a place for them to go relative to, you know, as we go through encampment by encampment," Pitt said.