'A new slate today': Dozens find shelter as temporary access center opens in Lodi

·4 min read

Jul. 23—Some 20 unsheltered individuals had been processed and admitted to the city's temporary access center Friday morning, just hours after it opened its doors at 710 N. Sacramento St.

The temporary shelter — located inside the structure that will become the permanent access center — will house as many as 50 homeless individuals, and Pastor Frank Saldana said the first day of operations was good.

"I think we were doing more of a referral per hour," he said. "But we decided we should bring them all in. I think there are still some working on referrals, so between today and tomorrow, we still have time to completely set up. But I felt like if they were ready to come in, we need to bring them all in now."

Saldana is the founder of the Stockton-based nonprofit organization Inner City Action. He and his staff will provide wraparound services that include case management, life skills, housing navigation, income advocacy, mental health and substance abuse treatment resources, and job readiness training.

The services officered will be similar to those provided once the permanent access center — to occupy the same facility — is complete.

"We're all about transition," he said. "What we'll do is offer some life coaching, get to know their history, and try to find the right services they need so they can get out of this unfortunate situation."

Saldana said the individuals Inner City Action will serve will also be pick up life skills that will help them understand and get used to working again.

"I can't wait for the day they jump in the van and they're out there cleaning the streets," he said. "That's how it is in Manteca. We clean every day. We take the truck or the van, and we're out on the streets and cleaning up. What it does for them, is it starts a work ethic."

Inner City Action operates a similar facility in Manteca, and Saldana said he and his staff took what worked in that city and brought it to Lodi.

One feature that worked well in Manteca was providing day-long transportation to clients who lacked the means to travel to places like doctor appointments, job interviews, or grocery stores for basic necessities.

What Inner City Action will do, he said, is create a route throughout Lodi that will depart the access center at certain times of the day.

A driver will stop at various locations throughout town and give clients time to purchase goods and then bring them back to the center.

If a doctor's appointment happens to be on the route, a client can be taken at the same time.

However, if that appointment is not on the route or at a time that does not coincide with the schedule, a client can request a separate ride to where they need to go.

When not out in the city cleaning or running errands, there will be activities for clients to enjoy, including table tennis or movies. The organization will also provide three meals a day, as well as snacks throughout the day.

There are places to park bicycles, as well as personal storage units to keep belongings for the duration of their stay and on-site shower facilities.

"You give them some hope, and we create the culture," he said. "So when people come in here, the culture just keeps moving forward. We don't want them to feel like this is a place you stay and then just go. We want to make them feel like part of a community or a family.

Due to the limited capacity at the emergency shelter, admittance to the facility will be based on referrals from outreach teams, local nonprofits like the Salvation Army, and Inner City Action.

Saldana said he plans to drive to homeless encampments in Lodi and try to bring many of those individuals to the center.

"I told them it is a new slate today," he said. "Today, your canvas is clean. We don't care where you've come from, we care where you're going."

Because development of the access center is expected to take about 18 months, and because city staff acknowledged an immediate need to address Lodi's homeless issue, it was decided a temporary shelter would be beneficial to the community.

"This is a huge step in helping us get people off the streets of Lodi, bringing up the town, and giving them services," Mayor Mark Chandler said. "I love (Inner City Action's) focus on transition. This is going to make Lodi an even better place to live."