While sharing his own story of reaching sobriety 21 years ago, Lt. Dan Williams announced that the Salvation Army is researching the creation of a detox center in Lodi at a Tuesday forum on homelessness.
The goal of the center will be to take people either off the street or from their homes and help them get sober, so they can enter a drug or alcohol recovery program, Williams said.
"I was a drug and alcohol addict. If someone didn't take that chance with me, I wouldn't be here right now. These people are no different than us. They are our neighbors," he said.
The nonprofit's board of directors is in the beginning stage of forming a plan for a detox center and finding out if there is support from other community leaders, like Lodi Memorial Hospital, the city and other nonprofits, Williams said.
A detox center is vital because a large percentage of those on the street have a substance abuse problem, he said.
Currently, anyone who wants to go into a drug or alcohol recovery program has to first get sober, and there is no program to help them complete that step, Williams said. It is the biggest gap in trying to help get people off the street, he said.
"There are a lot of people here who want to get clean and sober, and but if they have no place to stay, they go back on the street," Williams said. "If their buddy offers them a drink, they are going to take it because it's cold at night."
At a previous forum on how to help the homeless in November, members of different nonprofits said a detox center is the No. 1 need.
The Lodi Improvement Committee started holding the forums to bring together community leaders to discuss what services are already available and what services are needed, Neighborhood Services Manager Joseph Wood said.
He wanted the Salvation Army to discuss their effort to create the detox program because it is something that the whole community needs to get behind for it to work.
"It's the light on the horizon, but the curtains are just being opened to see that glimmer of light. It's a long way off, and there is still a sizable mountain range to climb to realize this goal," Wood said.
Williams and his staff went to visit a detox center the Salvation Army operates in San Francisco that has 30 beds — 20 for veterans, five for non-veteran men and five for women. There is a long waiting list to get in, and it costs $509,000 a year to run the center, or about $60 a day per person.
The Salvation Army is thinking a Lodi detox center would be 15 to 20 beds — 10 for men and five for women. It would be opened up not only for the homeless, Williams said, but anyone who wants to get sober long enough to get into a program.
Committee member Tim Litton suggested that businesses in the community could help finance building and running a center.
He also suggested that the city explore donating city-owned land or using Community Development Block Grant funding to help with building costs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs pays for the beds for former military members at the San Francisco center, so committee member Fran Forkas said they should look into that in Lodi.
Williams said the Salvation Army will be looking at all forms of funding and suggestions on how build the shelter.
"We all have the same heart and goal in mind. Each one of us has a part to play," Williams said.
The committee also discussed having more forums focused on homelessness to see what other services are needed. Wood said he is putting together a list of nonprofits and how they serve the homeless.
San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel said this is a good starting point.
"The recognition that these problems exist — that there are people out there who need help — is a good first step," he said.
Williams said there are two type of homeless people — those who do not want help and those who want to change their lives. He said many of the homeless in Lodi are sick and tired, and they know they will not live that much longer if they stay on the streets.
Recently, Williams said someone on his staff spoke to a homeless man who was in the emergency room 23 times last month. Part of it was health problems, but he also was continuously being robbed and beaten by gang members.
"It will save our emergency room, our police department and our community money. The cost of a detox center will be less than visiting the emergency room 23 times. They really need the help, because they are hurt," he said.