Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,
As you are acutely aware, this is a time of economic stress for many of our communities. As a small businessman living and working in Turlock, California, I see many people struggle, not just to pay a mortgage, recover stock losses, or even buy a new car. Turlock, like other communities, is home to those without the means to even rent a humble apartment, or put food on a table. My family and I have seen the increasing numbers of homeless in our community and are dumbfounded by the lack of resolve to do something for those in the most need.
Governor, as you may know, several years ago the city of Turlock asked HUD for money to buy and remodel a homeless shelter. HUD granted the cities request and gave Turlock several million dollars to buy and rehab a homeless shelter. In May 2005, Turlock bought an old warehouse in an industrial area for the homeless shelter paying $350,000 with money it received from HUD.
In February 2006, Turlock voted on a plan to build the shelter. The council approved option B of the plans dated January 5, 2006. In June 2006, the city put a halt to building the shelter and spent $70,000 looking at other sites to for the shelter.
Several months ago the city of Turlock said that the homeless shelter should be “privatized” as the city doesn’t want to be in the homeless business. Senator, this is nearly 4 years after applying for and receiving a HUD grant to construct a homeless facility. As a businessman in our community, I at first followed the story with pride in my community for stepping up to the plate, then with increasing frustration as politicians studied and restudied solutions to a homeless challenge that has not abated.
Out of my frustration, I determined that with a comprehensive business plan and sound management, a shelter in Turlock operate to the benefit of the community and those who would be served by services provided, i.e. our homeless neighbors. I began outreach to other community programs to enlist their aid in supporting this endeavor.
In January of this year, my family stepped up to the plate to offer to buy the shelter from Turlock. As part of our proposal, we asked to be able to use some of the HUD money to
bring the shelter up to code in preparation for services and temporary shelter. The city ignored the offer and embarked on another round of studies and appraisals.
The city counsel also asked if the building could just be used as a warehouse to hold items for use with low-income families to meet HUD requirements for use and not trigger a requirement for the city to repay the original grant.
As I woke to the freezing fog that blankets our valley I found myself wondering how the city can legitimately use a homeless grant to get federal money then not use those resources for its intended purpose. I wondered what would happen to an average person talked a government agency into granting money and I simply did what I wanted with it.
As I look over a budget for the shelter from January 25, 2006 I see millions of dollars from RDA and CDBG funds listed with account numbers holding them. I wonder where that money is now 3 years latter. Since it wasn’t used for the homeless shelter we need to get an accounting for these funds and ensure that they are put to their proper use.
When I last was in front of the city council, they urged that the shelter be run by private citizens. When I proposed a business plan and offered to get the shelter on a solid footing, my proposal was not even considered. So, I am left wondering what happened with the original grants and their resolve to enlist private citizens to step in to operate a shelter in Turlock. With so much HUD money theoretically given by HUD for this purpose, it is critical that we get an accounting of the resources and begin to implement a common sense plan to use the money for its noble intended purpose.
I am writing to ask that you request an audit of the HUD grants to the city of Turlock so that we can understand how the money is being used. This will be a critical step forward to putting together a common sense solution so that we can step up as a community to serve the homeless living in Turlock and our surrounding communities.
We the people are willing to do the work. We just need our officials in Turlock to account for the project, allow private citizens to rally around the project and get it finished so we can do important work.
GDI Insurance Agency, Inc
801 Geer Rd, Turlock, CA 95380