Homeless people in Turlock: their needs and experiences

This project focuses on homelessness in Turlock, CA. Homelessness is a complex problem for the City, and was previously explored in a 2007 study by researchers from CSU Stanislaus (Garcia & Jasek-Rysdahl, 2007). That study concluded that there was much mistrust, anger, and frustration surrounding the problem. Eight years on, this project revisited the issue to discover what (if anything) has changed for Turlock’s homeless population. The project had three main aims. First, to understand the services available to homeless people in the city. Second, to gain an insight into the needs and experiences of this diverse population. Third, to offer recommendations for the future based on the voices of Turlock’s homeless people and those who dedicate their time to helping them. The project team carried out observations at two key locations in Turlock that provide services to the homeless. Discussions were held with staff at these locations. Finally, a focus group was held with homeless individuals who used these services on a regular basis. Findings from this fieldwork were consistent with the 2007 study, particularly with regard to the high levels of mistrust and suspicion that exist between the homeless and the community. Focus group participants perceived the community as hostile and uneducated as to the real lives and circumstances of homeless people. In spite of the best efforts of service providers, Turlock’s homeless population continues to feel that the community’s contempt for the homeless overrides compassion (see Garcia & Jasek-Rysdahl, 2007:49). This project reemphasizes the need for a response to homelessness underpinned by coordination, cooperation, collaboration – and compassion.