The encampment at El Pescadero Park saw a few more tents pop up on Friday.
They were part of an effort by local homeless service providers to reach out to the unsheltered people living at the park, with the aim to get services to the people who need them, and ultimately get people back into permanent, sheltered, living situations.
There was the van that the Salvation Army provides as a mobile service center, tables with information on providing health care and legal services, plus the shower trailer provided by Tracy Community Connections Center,
“We just make sure we’ve got everybody that gives them services,” said Debra Padaong, street outreach director for Tracy Community Connections Center. “If we can get them off the street that’s our real plan. If they need to get Social Security, disability, we get them food stamps, we sign them up for everything. We make sure they get their California IDs. From there we get them into services to get them off the street.”
Padaong said that the Tracy Community Connections Center sets up the outreach at El Pescadero Park once a month to remind people that services are available, and every step that people take to accept those services is a step closer to being in permanent housing. She added that it’s a process of building trust, and then being patient and persistent while connecting people with services.
Tracy Community Connections Center is a local group at the forefront of coordinating the interface between unsheltered homeless people and the services that can get them off the street.
“There’s many different ones we’ve gotten off the street. We get them through a program, and they’ll go through it again. We’re just praying that one day, one time, we get them all the way off the street,” she said.
Padaong said her role has been to get to know the people living at El Pescadero Park, and let them know not just about services, but also about the city’s monitoring of the park, including code enforcement and cleanup efforts.
“They call me when they need to locate a person. We’re the boots to the ground,” she said. “It’s kind of good because we work together.”
She also is making sure people are prepared for the change in the weather.
“Here I went and assessed every tent and made sure we got donations of tarps and stuff to batten down the hatches before the next rain came out.”
Friday’s outreach also showed that people who live in homeless encampments are involved in the solutions that get people into long-term housing. Carl Sumner and Michelle Cunningham came from Stockton for the day. They are involved with the We Can Project, part of The Echo Chamber out of Stockton, a group that started off as a recycling enterprise and continues to seek out ways for people in the encampments to improve their situation.
Sumner said that includes looking for plots of land around the county where people can have trailers and tiny homes. He noted that even a place like El Pescadero Park, where the city has set up portable toilets and hygiene stations and is subject to regular cleanups, is an improvement over what other encampments in Stockton have.
He added that once people join together to seek solutions, their coordinated efforts become more effective for the individuals who would struggle on their own.
“Me and Michelle, we all know each other as a group. If we have to relocate, or we have to move, we all move as one group, so we keep that connection and look out for each other. We all help each other out as much as we can,” he said.
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