SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATE 9/6/2016 6 PM:
A new health services center in the Chinatown area is set to open in just a few weeks. The Chinatown Health Services Center is located at 111 E. Lake Street and is a pilot health service center for the chronically homeless. The center plans to give Chinatown residents 24/7 access to things many of us take for granted, namely showers and bathrooms. But the end goal is to get people off the streets and into permanent housing.
"We're not dealing with people who have experienced one year of homelessness out here," said Julyanna Pacheco, a manager for the Dorothy's Place Drop-in Center. "There are people who have been out here for 30 years and it's chronic homelessness. And so, there are a lot more barriers with that that we don't always think about."
Miselsa Quintero has been homeless for decades. She said she has heart problems and is battling cancer, which is why she wants to get off the streets.
Organizers say one of the priorities of the 3,600-square-foot building is sanitation. Toward the back of the building is the hygiene center, where there are four showers and three restrooms that will be regularly cleaned and eventually opened 24/7. There's also a laundry area for towels that clients will use.
Near the front of the building are four shared offices, where specialists in different fields will work with clients.
"This facility is here to provide health and nutrition education, mental health outpatient services, addiction outpatient services and case management which assists those we serve with trauma-informed client-centered plans that culminate in safe housing," said Jill Allen, executive director of Dorothy's Place.
Some other services that could be included are medical, sexual assault counseling and assistance in applications for Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance. There's also a training room, designated for neighborhood education and case management. Each client will have a case manager to work with daily if need be.
Safety continues to be a major issue in Chinatown, where there have been three homicides in three weeks.
"The people who serve the poor here in Chinatown could look at the situation and choose to leave," Allen said. "Leave it to the bullies who victimize the weak. Leave it to the police to sort out the mess. But we don't, because if we did, we would contribute to the indifference that creates poverty and violence. Instead, we elect to stay here and offer opportunities to everyone. Opportunities to serve, opportunities to give up the street life, opportunities that work to changing behaviors that keep people in the street and keep people without safe housing."
Allen said security is something they really thought about. There will be security cameras placed at the main entry, and two more cameras will be located at the after-hours entrance.
The project is a partnership between the city of Salinas and the Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra, with Dorothy's Place being the lead agency.
"It's a dramatic change, it's good for the whole community and it will provide a service that we have been unable to provide for our lowest-income people, people that need resources and an opportunity to move themselves forward," Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter said.
The agencies are leasing the building from local business owner Leon De Asis, who donated another $10,000 to the project on Tuesday. Allen said they still need $50,000 to finish the project.
As for Quintero, she said she's finished with living on the streets.
"I hope to get out of Chinatown," Quintero said. "Sixty years is too long."
The new Chinatown Health Services Center in Salinas is nearing its October 3 launch date.
The center is expected to serve 120 low income and homeless people daily and provide showers, restrooms and an array of resources including information on healthcare, nutrition and social services.
The center is the result of a public-private partnership. On Tuesday, organizers said they need to raise about $50,000 to complete the project.
Tonight, KION's Mariana Hicks takes us inside the center and talks with city leaders about their expectations for the new pilot program.