The Stockton Shelter for the Homeless announced it will close its doors in two weeks, which would leave hundreds of homeless Stocktonians without important services.
But the city says it won’t let that happen.
Stockton has declared a local emergency to protect the nearly 250 people who would be displaced by a closure. City officials say Stockton is working with shelter leadership to keep the shelter open until it can be taken over by another organization.
“The safety and stability of Stockton shelter residents is of the utmost importance to the city,” Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln said in a statement. “Ensuring a stable transition of operational services is non-negotiable.”
The local emergency declared by Stockton on Monday is being described as a “precautionary measure” so the city can step in with resources to stabilize the shelter’s services, city officials said in a press release Monday. It also gives the city authority to allocate funding and work with other service providers to support the needs of shelter residents, as well make decisions for public health safety.
Lincoln says the city’s declaration will “aid in protecting our unsheltered resident, to provide necessary resources quickly, and to prevent a public health crisis for those at risk of displacement.”
How did we get here
The city was unexpectedly informed two weeks ago that the shelter planned to soon shut its doors, City Manager Harry Black told Stocktonia on Monday. Black said the city is working collaboratively with the county on the issue and has made the shelter it’s number one priority.
“It was one of those situations in which we had to drop everything else and focus solely on this,” Black said. “That’s what we’ve been doing for the past two weeks and will continue to do so until we are past this particular emergency situation.”
Shelter leadership did not give a specific reasoning for the closure, Black said. Although, he suspects that the shelter’s current operational model likely “creates stress and pressure from a financial standpoint,” which may need to be revisited once the current crisis is over.
Stockton Shelter for the Homeless officials could not be reached as of publication.
Black, as the city manager, declared a local emergency Monday in response to the possible closure. Stockton City Council, which has seven days to then ratify the declaration, will hold an emergency meeting Thursday, city officials said.
A closure “can’t happen,” Black says, noting that hundreds of people who depend on the shelter’s services would otherwise be displaced. Stockton Shelter for the Homeless is the largest shelter in Northern California, serving Stockton and the greater San Joaquin County.
The primary purpose for the emergency declaration is to provide the city with maximum flexibility and decisions making ability to “engage in the necessary expenditures and actions that allow us to avert any disruptions to service,” Black said.
With financial assistance from the city, Stockton officials say the shelter leadership has indicated the shelter will remain open past the original Aug. 15 closure date to support and assist with an orderly transition.
The city is in discussion with St. Mary’s Dining Room to take over shelter operations, Black said.
“We’re hopeful, we’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to execute a sublease agreement in which they would begin to operate the shelter,” Black said. “However, if we’re not successful in that we’re also in parallel working on a contingency plan that would involve pursuing perhaps an alternative operator.”
Up until recently the shelter had big plans in the work, even preparing for a large expansion this summer.
A groundbreaking ceremony for a new $5 million navigation center with 180 additional beds at the shelter was held in June of 2022, a project that had been six years in the making. The expansion, tentatively scheduled to open last month, was funded from various local sources, including the city of Stockton.
There will likely be a delay in navigation center project, Black says, but the city’s “guiding principle” is to make sure the transition to a new shelter operator is as seamless as possible.
“What the public should know is that the city and the county are working collaboratively on this. This is our number one priority right now,” Black said. “We are confident that we will resolve this so that there is no disruption in service.”
This is a developing story.