Coalition of Tracy Citizens to Assist the Homeless has leased the residence at 26 W. Emerson Ave. and is getting it ready to accept as many as six men and four women on its opening day, July 1, according to coalition director Marvin Rothschild.
The residence is a temporary place for occupants to stay while they find employment or save enough money to get over their financial woes, Rothschild said.
“This is a great day for Tracy and those who live on the streets,” he said. “It’s a positive step in the right direction for us as a group and for the people that need us.”
Rothschild, who announced his resignation as director effective July 3, has recruited Rev. Tom Bardwell as head administrator of the infant program.
Bardwell, a Tracy resident who is pastor at True Light Ministries Full Gospel Baptist Church in Oakland, was overseer of six similar homes in that city before stepping down in 2010 while fighting pancreatic cancer.
“I told Marvin I would come back because I got some of my step back,” he said.
As the first place in Tracy to accept both men and women off the streets, Rothschild and Bardwell acknowledged that strict rules and guidelines for the occupants were necessary to “set the tone in the house,” Bardwell said.
“We know the city and the police and everybody else is watching us,” he said. “Some peoples want us to fail, but if we get this going the right way in the beginning, we got a chance at something.”
‘We made it happen’
For Rothschild, acquiring a space to help homeless people get off the streets was his aim when he formed the coalition three years ago.
“Our primary goal is not to feed, not to get their teeth pulled, but to get as many as possible in a home,” he said. “I will pull back more and more here as the time goes, but right now I want to see this through.”
He said the coalition had several problems with purchasing property because it was too small a nonprofit, while several possible sites were too far from downtown Tracy.
Rothschild declined to comment about contract length or rates the coalition negotiated with the homeowner.
The San Joaquin County Assessor’s Office lists the total property’s value in 2011 at $190,088 — $65,548 for the 0.14-acre lot and $124,540 for the structure.
“Some people might not say it’s the best, but we are doing it — this is going to happen,” Rothschild said.
The residence is a one-story house with a one-bedroom loft building in the backyard.
Bardwell expects to put two sets of bunk beds and two single beds in the main house for the men. The women, he said, would sleep in the back building, where four single beds are being set up. The structure was built nearly 30 years ago without permits and can’t technically be zoned as housing, according to Bardwell.
By not installing a stove or kitchen sink, the coalition will keep the structure technically nonresidential. Occupants will have access to a bathroom, refrigerator and microwave, Bardwell said.
He said the coalition was accepting applications from potential occupants and noted that preliminary interviews were being set up.
An initial interview will include questions about each person’s future and drive to succeed. A background check and final interview could also be included in the selection process, Bardwell said.
If accepted, occupants will have about six months to a year to find places of their own. But that time length is negotiable, he said.
“This is not a flophouse where peoples are going to come and kick back on the couch all day,” Bardwell said. “We want real peoples who are going to change their lives for the better, so we can make exceptions if you doing that.”
Standard of living
Many occupants, Bardwell said, are coming from troubled backgrounds and need “structure in their lives.”
A strict set of rules for the residence is being developed, but Bardwell said a zero-tolerance policy would apply to using or possessing drugs or alcohol or breaking any laws either there or on the streets.
There will be one television in the residence and an enforced curfew, and occupants must be actively working to secure a means out of the house. No pets are allowed. Sexual relationships are strictly prohibited, he said.
“They need more than just food — they need a physical place to come and get it together,” Bardwell said. “When they have a place to lay their head, they get their mind more focused and get steady to try and get a job.”
Occupants will be banned from loitering in the front yard or disturbing neighbors, and smoking will be allowed only in the backyard.
Bardwell said the coalition chose the residence only after “receiving the blessing from neighbors.”
“We wanted to know what people thought about this, and everyone seemed OK with it,” he said. “There were a couple issues, but we will work that out. The bottom line is these peoples won’t be hanging out, getting drunk in the yard or making noise. They will be gone if they do.”
Several neighbors declined to comment Wednesday, June 20, about the home’s new use.
During his time in Oakland, Bardwell said he gained several contacts that he hopes will help him in Tracy. He would like to have career-building specialists work with occupants on résumé writing, interview questions and reading improvement exercises.
“We’re going to run across a lot of people that just need help or direction tapping into a source of income,” he said. “You just need to help them until they reach that level. A lot of them need education, because they can’t read or write the best. We want to give them that here.”
Bardwell added that in the future he hopes to secure several computers to teach occupants computer literacy skills so they could apply to jobs online.
“You have to empower them — that’s the key,” he said. “Show them how to do it, and then when they can do it, you see that change in them.”
A volunteer house manager will live in the home, while Bardwell will be present during daytime hours. The house manager will enforce the rules and also act as cook for the house, serving three meals a day.
Occupants will be required to make a small monetary donation to cover the cost of utilities and food.
Bardwell said the coalition would establish a “rainy day fund” to cover expenses in the event the home isn’t fully occupied.
More to come?
Rothschild said the coalition would like to find more structures to temporarily house homeless people, but he noted that the success of this home will determine future actions.
“We have big plans, but it all counts on this,” he said.
Bardwell said he hoped to use the residence as a place for short-term residents and overnight guests. He hopes a new dialog between the coalition and the Tracy police can begin.
“My biggest thing that I really want to make sure we always have is, if the Tracy police are taking the peoples to jail that are homeless, instead of them taking these peoples to the county jail, the police can bring them to us, and we can take them overnight and see what we can do to help them,” he said. “It’s about looking out for them kind of folks, and plus it helps out the county jail.”
The Coalition of Tracy Citizens to Assist the Homeless needs several major items for its new house for the homeless:
• Two sets of bunk beds and seven single beds
• Washer and dryer
• Two refrigerators
The house could also use many smaller items:
• Dining room sets
For information about becoming an occupant or donating items, call Marvin Rothschild: 914-5242.