Homeless people in Turlock: their needs and experiences

This exploratory project focuses on homelessness in the City of Turlock, CA; a complex problem previously explored by researchers from CSU Stanislaus (Garcia & Jasek-Rysdahl, 2007). That study found 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, the team sought an understanding of the services available to homeless people in the city. Second, the team sought an insight into the needs and experiences of this diverse population. Third, the team sought recommendations for the future based on the voices of Turlock’s homeless people and those who dedicate their time to helping them. The team carried out observations at two key locations in Turlock that provide services to the homeless. Discussions were held with salaried and volunteer 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 generally consistent with the 2007 study, particularly regarding the high levels of mistrust and suspicion 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.