WATSONVILLE — The Salvation Army is aiming to improve its services for homeless people in South County.
By the end of the year, the organization plans to be running a day center for homeless people, with services such as internet access, showers, mailboxes, lockers, laundry and visiting nurses.
It will also offer transitional housing, with 11 apartments in two buildings, and run a winter emergency shelter.
Those services will be provided by Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center, Homeless Persons’ Health Project and Encompass Community Services.
Those organizations will lease three buildings owned by Salvation Army, with the money from that agreement paying for their services.
To make such a move, the Salvation Army must first reclaim the buildings that have been used by Teen Challenge Monterey Bay, which has been running the men’s and women’s homeless programs for the Salvation Army.
That began four years ago, when long-term financial troubles forced the Salvation Army to cede control of its homeless services programs – three buildings in all – to Teen Challenge Monterey Bay, which is a program of Pajaro Rescue Mission.
Teen Challenge has successfully run the programs since then, said Salvation Army Capt. Harold Laubach.
But Laubach said that the needs of South County’s homeless population has seen a recent shift, with many seeking day services that are not currently offered in Watsonville, he said.
In addition, Teen Challenge has been using the buildings rent-free, a loss of potential income for Salvation Army.
“It’s worked out well, but here we are four years later,” he said. “The usage of the emergency shelter has decreased, and the need for the other programs has increased.”
While the contract with Teen Challenge runs out on Oct. 31, Laubach said the Salvation Army is giving the men’s shelter employees a 30-day extension, and those in the women’s shelter a six-day extension to give them time to move out.
“We understand it’s a rough transition for them,” he said. “They’re going to lose the buildings they have been in for the last three years. But we want everyone to know that we are extremely appreciative of TC’s help over the last couple of years. They stepped in when we could no longer do the program.”
During the changes, Laubach stressed that there will be no break in services for residents and clients.