After the recent fire at the Cages, where most of Patterson’s homeless residents have lived for years, the property owner has advised those squatting there that they must vacate the premises.

The city and Cambridge Academies / H.O.S.T. House have been scrambling to find shelter for those who will be displaced – assuming they will go to a shelter. Some have already moved elsewhere in town. And some of the men can go to H.O.S.T. House, officials have said.

However, there is real concern for the women. Naomi’s House hasn’t yet been built, and the homeless women, among the most vulnerable of the population, will not have anywhere to go – except to a shelter out of town; an option apparently without much appeal.

The Stanislaus County Outreach Team, which on Monday included the Center for Human Services, offering assistance to homeless youth, Telecare (mental health services), Turning Points Homeless Court, Turning Points housing and Golden Valley Health Center, has been making frequent visits.

On Monday, the team hoped to convince at least one person to accept shelter.

Homeless Court

That didn’t happen, but it was still a fairly productive day for those offering help: several people were set up on Homeless Court, which, according to the Stanislaus County Public Defender’s website, was established earlier this year as an alternative to the traditional criminal justice court system, to help resolve homeless or formerly homeless individuals’ relatively minor legal issues, such as traffic infractions and non-violent misdemeanors. 

The court’s mission is to resolve matters that have created barriers making it difficult for homeless people to integrate back into society. Participants must earn the privilege by making progress toward “stability,” which, the website indicates, is defined on a case-by-case basis.

Homeless Court participants are represented by the Public Defender when their hearing dates come up, and the focus is on resolving outstanding issues. “The goal is for the client to walk away from court with these obstacles removed so that the client can move forward with their lives,” per the website.

Other help

Some people in the encampment accepted “blankets and other items,” Det. Cooper said later via text. “Some were interested in housing and other services, such as mental health and medical assistance.”

He added that the Outreach Team checked in with several people who had engaged with the team recently, and said the team would follow up next week “and attempt to assist with housing for those that are ready.”

Those who work with the homeless population know that it can take a lot of effort to convince someone to accept help.

At one point, one of the Outreach Team members was deep in conversation with a woman who had said she was interested in housing. But she has two dogs, which, like most homeless people, and women especially, she said she was unwilling to give up. Pets are often a barrier, even at a shelter. Pets are allowed, however, at the Modesto tent city known as Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter (MOES).

The team will be back next Monday.

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