Construction on a new low-barrier homeless shelter in Stockton could be completed by October of next year, according to St. Mary’s Dining Room. 

Known as the Pathways Program, the project will increase the city’s overall shelter capacity by more than 300 beds, include 24/7 wrap-around services and provide space for homeless individuals to recuperate after receiving emergency medical care.

The new shelter will be an expansion of the services St. Mary’s already offers. The organization is one of the largest homeless services providers in Stockton and has been serving homeless and low-income communities in San Joaquin County for nearly 70 years, providing meals, medical care, social services, housing navigation and hygiene assistance. 

“St. Mary’s had always been focused on daytime services, but the need for additional sheltering is now so great that we felt we had to respond,” CEO Petra Linden told Stocktonia via email earlier this month.

Linden says that construction on the shelter is slated to begin in January 2024 and will take about 10 months to complete.

“This Pathways project will provide a new option of non-congregate shelter to serve some of the most vulnerable populations of the homeless: seniors, women, people with severe mental illness, and those with disabilities,” Linden said. 

Accommodations will also allow for partners, pets, possessions and privacy, Linden said. Shelters and those who work with homeless populations often cite not allowing room for these important aspects of people’s lives often keep those living unsheltered from coming inside to receive help.

“It will help to overcome some of the existing barriers to shelter,” Linden said.

According to estimates, city officials say that there are somewhere between 800 to 900 people sleeping outdoors in Stockton on any given night. 

Carrie Wright, Stockton director of economic development, told the City Council in March that nearly 1,400 Stocktonians are homeless and that the city has anywhere from 550 to 656 beds available to them. Another 419 are slated to be added to that total through upcoming projects, including those that will be available this summer when the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless completes construction on its new navigation center.

“So that leaves a gap of between 295 beds and 397,” Wright said. 

However, between the St. Mary’s Pathway Project project and some additional state funding the City Council voted to apply for at the beginning of this month, Wright says Stockton could effectively close that gap.

What the shelter will include

St. Mary’s new shelter will be located in the “parking lot” on South Lincoln Street between West Sonora and West Church Streets just south of Stockton’s downtown, adjacent to St. Mary’s already existing facilities and the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. This means, Linden told the City Council in March, that everyone who stays at the shelter will have access to the organization’s wraparound services.

Both St. Mary’s and the Stockton Shelter for the homeless are developing a campus where they will be able to jointly identify which services and facilities are the best fit for each person, Linden told Stocktonia earlier this month.

“Our goal is to help people transition out of homelessness into housing.  Pathways will provide a stable place where individuals can stay for a few months while we provide case management and identify housing options that meet their needs,” Linden said. “We are partnering with the affordable housing providers, the Housing Authority, and private landlords in our community to develop those exits out of homelessness.”

Rather than a traditional shelter that often consists of large, interconnected facilities, the new St. Mary’s shelter will be structured as a temporary housing community with 232 individual modular single and double units.

“The units are basically eight by eight bedroom units,” Linden told City Council. “So very simple, very cost effective.”

Nearly 40% of the units are also planned to be ADA accessible, according to City Council agenda documents, while 45 of them will also be designated for recuperative care for individuals who have been discharged from the hospital but need a place to continue healing.

Residents will be allowed to stay in their temporary homes 24/7 rather than being required to leave during the day and rechecking back in each night, while also having access to meals, hygiene support, shower and bathroom units, medical and dental care through Community Medical Centers clinics, and comprehensive case management. The space will also have community rooms with a kitchenette and places to gather for meetings or support groups, as well as security.

“Really wanting to create this as a place where folks can feel safe, secure and connected,” Linden said.

Getting the project funded and running

Linden said the Pathways Program has been in the works for a while and is the result of partnerships with other organizations.

“Several years ago St. Mary’s was approached with the idea of building a shelter on our existing space, and the board approved the concept,” Linden said. “In the Fall of 2022 there were a group of community partners that had identified this current model as something that was needed in our community, and they were looking for a location.”

The organization offered up the 14-parcel property on the corner of it already owned for the shelter’s location, Linden said, while some initial funding — $5.4 million dollars — was provided by Health Plan of San Joaquin. 

In March, Stockton City Council approved $3.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help with the “daily costs associated with creating and operating the Pathways Program.” The Council also authorized the city to apply on St. Mary’s behalf for a one-time $6.5 million capital grant from San Joaquin County. 

All Stockton’s city councilors unanimously praised the project and expressed hope for what it could help do for the city’s homeless population.

“This is very exciting. This is what we need. We all know this is what we need,” Councilmember Lenz said.

The total cost for the project, including the shelter’s first three years of operational funding, comes to about $21.5 million, according to City Council agenda documents. St. Mary’s reportedly had already secured a total of $11.3 million from other funding sources before going before City Council in March. 

The county last month told Stockonia that it had received the city and St. Mary’s application but would not be making an announcement just yet. Last week, Linden said that St. Mary’s was still waiting on the county’s approval.

Linden told City Council in March that some sort of disruptive event often pushes a person into homelessness, such as domestic violence, the breakup of a family, a medical condition or job loss. This then can trigger what she describes as a cycle of homelessness, leaving the person stuck.

“Our goal is to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring,” Linden said, noting that people need help with exit strategies to get them unstuck and into a pipeline to affordable and sustainable housing.

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