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Homelessness In Focus At Community Session
Riverbank homeless panel
The 2020 Annual Nonprofit and Community Partner Meeting was held at the Riverbank Community Center on January 30. Ric McGinnis/The News
Riverbank panel
There were many partners sharing ideas at the annual meeting in Riverbank, including the homeless liaison for the Riverbank Unified School District. RIC MCGINNIS/THE NEWS

Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien hosted an annual meeting with non-profits and community partners recently to discuss the homeless population in the area, along with talking about potential programs and solutions. Also towards the end of January was the federal Point-in-Time (PIT) count of the sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single day required by HUD (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.)

“I am changing my mindset on the homeless,” stated O’Brien at the start of the meeting. “I am not calling them homeless anymore. They are Americans without homes. It should strike a chord with everyone on that these are people that are us that don’t have a place to live. Think of it along those lines.”

There were several people present at the meeting including City Councilmember Cal Campbell, Vice Mayor Luis Uribe, Councilmember Darlene Barber Martinez, Riverbank Chamber of Commerce board member Bill Robinson, representatives of the Riverbank Unified School District, Christian Food Sharing, Golden Agers, Jason Conway, Executive Director of Modesto Gospel Mission, True Life Church, One Church, Riverbank Librarian Vicky Holt, and Riverbank Head Start officials.

Last year the group that was present discussed things that they wanted to accomplish to assist the homeless situation which the Mayor added that there have been some things accomplished but not anything of significance. He said that funding is needed and Stanislaus County is not cooperating. Looking for solutions the Mayor has contacted the Cambridge Academies which is a non-profit that specializes in programs for distressed and homeless individuals.

O’Brien has plans to meet with Governor Gavin Newsom and an appointment with Ben Carson, Secretary of HUD, at the end of March which he is hopeful to gain assistance in providing affordable, low income housing.

Vice Mayor Uribe explained that he was appointed to the Stanislaus Homeless Alliance (SHA) which is a board made up of elected officials, nonprofit and homeless service providers.

“The County as a whole has received millions of dollars in funding from the State to fund homeless projects and services,” said Uribe at the meeting. “The City of Riverbank has submitted grant applications for those funds but unfortunately has not been selected for funding as of yet. Although that is disappointing, additional resources regionally that are used to aid in solving homelessness issues do have spillover benefits for those in Riverbank who are homeless.”

Knowing that what works for other cities in the county like Modesto and Turlock may not be the best way to serve Riverbank’s homeless population which is why they held the meeting and believe that providing opportunities for people to be permanently housed along with transitional housing is important.

“We have focused heavily on pushing forward a variety of housing developments in Riverbank, currently, there are six separate subdivision developments in process on the east side of Riverbank, a number of large developments within Crossroads West in the beginning stages and a variety of multifamily projects in formation on both sides of town,” stated Uribe. “These new housing opportunities will grow our housing stock and hopefully create a greater range of housing options so that homelessness in Riverbank is a rarity. We intend to keep being aggressive in competing for grants in order to find adequate funding to address homelessness.”

There were conversations with many of the representatives of the non-profits in attendance and vast sharing of knowledge of the situation current day within the county including “stopping the bleeding,” as Conway expressed.

Riverbank Mayor O'Brien
Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien recently hosted an annual nonprofit and community partner meeting at the Community Center. RIC MCGINNIS/THE NEWS