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Old hotel may become home for Hurricane Katrina victims

Date: 11/12/2005

Old hotel may become home for Hurricane Katrina victims

By Shamus Byrne
Friday, November 11, 2005 11:06 PM PST

Dozens of Hurricane Katrina victims may soon call Turlock home.

Obispo Gray Ministry is leading an effort to convert the former Lucky 7 Motel at 2700 N. Golden State Blvd. into housing for 78 victims of the August storm that devastated New Orleans.

“We are committed to the individuals and their families,” said Obispo Gray, a pastor who has worked in Turlock for about three years.

Gray said his organization is working with the city of Turlock, the Assyrian American Civic Club, Habitat for Humanity and local business leaders to renovate the property.

The old hotel site has been the subject of some controversy, which piqued in July with tenants complaining to the county that their apartments were “uninhabitable.”

Now vacant, the seven-acre lot is owned by the Assyrian American Civic Club, which has entered into an agreement to let Gray's group use the property at no cost for the next year, Gray said.

The plan is to take the 26 living units on the property and turn them into interim housing for the 78 evacuees that arrived in California from Gulfport, Miss. and New Orleans and are currently in shelters in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, Modesto and San Jose.

Along with the living units, a major movie corporation will be providing play equipment for the families.

The plan for the rest of the property is to build a youth center with a learning lab that will be equipped with 30 computers and a separate senior center.

“As far as living facilities go, out of five stars we intend on making this a four star facility,” Gray said.

Gray said hurricane evacuees may be able to move in as soon as Nov. 30, however the bulk of the new residents won't arrive until the end of January, shortly after the project's scheduled completion date of Jan. 6.

Volunteers with Faith Home Teen Challenge worked on cleaning up the property's landscape this week.

While living at the property, evacuees will be provided with employment and job training. To help them get to job training sites, the ministry and its auxiliary has acquired 15 passenger vans that are CNG or “clean air” vehicles.

Gray said his goal is to get the families into permanent housing.

Gray said the ministry has planned a three year follow-up to help care for the families and help in their transition.

Gray's staff at the facility will be trained by the American Red Cross. They will also possess degrees in social work, ministry and family counseling.

Once the property is renovated as Gray says “from the roof to the floor” it will be turned back over to the club fully furnished and equipped.

“It has been an incredible show of good faith by both sides,” Gray said.

That isn't the full extent of the project as Gray's ministry purchased five living units (condos) at 120 Clifford Ave. that we be home to five needy families and a recreation center. Habitat for Humanity out of Modesto will be helping with that project.

“It's our investment in our home town,” said Gray.

All materials for both sites have already been donated to make it a debt-free project.

Gray praised the assistance his ministry has received from the community during this project. From city officials to the fire department, to engineers and consultants, the help keeps coming in.

The ministry has been in Turlock for one year now and their mission is to fight blight and poverty as well as minister to the needs of the 300 recorded homeless persons living in Turlock.

Reporter Shamus Byrne can be reached at 634-9141 or turlockjournal@yahoo.com.