Lodi City Council selects Salvation Army to operate center for homeless

Sep. 8—Citing the nonprofit's experience and number of years in the city, the Lodi City Council on Wednesday night selected the Salvation Army as manager of the planned permanent access center for the homeless once the facility is operational.

The council voted 4-0 to award the management contract, for which Stockton-based Inner City Action — which currently operates the temporary center — was also vying.

Vice Mayor Lisa Craig was absent from the meeting. However, City Clerk Olivia Nashed read a letter Craig had submitted into record, supporting the Salvation Army.

"The City of Lodi has a mission to enhance the quality of life for local residents, reflecting our high community standards," Craig wrote. "The Salvation Army is a partner in that mission, doing the most good to enhance the quality of life for Lodi residents. Their work of love is rooted in their passion to serve the lost, the vulnerable, the needy, the hurting, the helpless and the hopeless."

City staff had recommended the council approve a contract with Inner City Action, citing the nonprofit's success operating the temporary facility located at 710 N. Sacramento Street, which is where the permanent center will also be constructed.

Since the access center opened in June of 2022, staff said 80 unsheltered individuals transferred to long-term programs, 31 gained employment, 21 gained housing, and 10 reconnected with family.

In addition, 43 individuals were connected with San Joaquin County's behavioral health services, and five began educational classes.

Between Aug. 16, 2022 and Aug. 22, 2023, staff said 75 people assisted by Hope Harbor Salvation Army were referred to programs, and 60 of those entered rehabilitation.

Another 35 people entered transitional living, and of hose, 14 gained long-term housing.

Some 16 families were sheltered, and 11 people graduated from Hope Harbor's culinary arts program.

Staff also recommended Inner City Action over the Salvation Army because the former would have 26 full-time and 22 part-time employees at the center, while the latter would have 17 full-time and 23 part-time employees.

In addition, Inner City Action proposed operating costs of a little more than $2.2 million, opposed to the Salvation Army's proposal of nearly $2.8 million.

"Our Salvation Army has proposed what we believe is a strong proposal to operate the permanent access center, but we do realize there are lots of factors that go into choosing an operator," Maj. Mark Thelenhaus said. "Regardless of whatever decision is made tonight, our Salvation Army continues to adapt to the ongoing needs of our town, and serve all the residents of Lodi."

Many who spoke during public comment Wednesday night shared their experiences with Inner City Action, including access center co-director Karina Swenson.

She told the council she could relate to every person who came through the access center's front door, as she had been homeless for 10 years. Inner City Action helped her get back on her feet, and even gave her a position within the nonprofit organization.

"If you haven't been to the access center, come and look at the people, look into the eyes of the lost, and the broken, the dirty and the drunks, the ones that nobody wants, and you get to see lives being restored," she said. "These people, these stories (shared tonight), that's not even a quarter of what we see every day."

Chad Calhoun is a former homeless man, who was helped by Inner City Action more than eight months ago. A former drug and alcohol addict who spent time in prison, Calhoun said the nonprofit helped him get his life back in order.

Today, he is a partner at a local construction company, married with children.

"The compassion, the love that the people at the access center showed me, it helped to break down the barriers I had put up because of the hurt, and just the things life had thrown at me," he said. "They've given me my life back. They've given me my hope back. My life taken a turn for the better — better than I thought it would."

Despite hearing Inner City success stories, the council also favored the Salvation Army's long-standing tenure in Lodi.

"The Salvation Army has been in this community longer," Councilman Cameron Bregman said. "That doesn't mean they should get the contract, but I do believe they have more utilities available to them to combat these issues better."

Last week, the city said it should break ground on the access next spring. Construction should take about 18 months, the city said.