Little Sherry Lopez can’t go to the park. Everyone calls her “Little Sherry” because she’s the smallest Sherry they know. Little Sherry is well short of five feet tall. She’s closer to four feet tall. She’s a few years past forty years old.
Little Sherry is developmentally and physically disabled. She walks haltingly and often has difficulty with simple concepts. Other than “little,” the most common word people use to describe Sherry is “sweet.”
In 2018, after it was opened for camping, Little Sherry moved into Beard Brook Park. Before she went to the park, she was often seen nearby, usually on or near south 9th Street and River Road in Modesto. Sherry told people who asked that before coming to Beard Brook Park she lived “under the bridge” or “at the trailer park” with her grandmother. She wasn’t sure where her grandmother was.
Once permitted to camp, Little Sherry was often seen at Beard Brook with a cat or kitten. Sometimes she held and petted a puppy, but she preferred cats. Most of the time she leashed the cats with a piece of string. The results were what most anyone, save perhaps Little Sherry, would expect.
In March of 2019, when Beard Brook Park campers were moved to a location under the 9th Street Bridge, Little Sherry went along. Like everyone else, she was given a 10’ x 10’ tent and a place for it in the new encampment, which was called the Modesto Outdoor Emergency Shelter (MOES).
100 square feet may have been the largest space Little Sherry had ever had to call her own. She began acquiring cats. At one time, she had four.
People sometimes feared for Little Sherry’s safety and well-being.
“She’s got the mind of a fourth grader,” said a concerned observer who visited her frequently. “Some of these people will give her drugs.”
Many such fears were allayed once Little Sherry was in a tent at MOES.
With more security and better tents than the Beard Brook campsite, MOES became a community.
“We’ve got each other’s backs,” was a common comment when MOES’ residents were asked what they most liked about being permitted to camp.
While Little Sherry never showed signs of fear, others often feared for her safety, in part because she seemed oblivious to dangers posed by people who prey on the weak. Once she was established in a tent near the staff headquarters, people looked out for her, including nearby homeless residents. Like most people everywhere, the vast majority of homeless people detest bullies and anyone who preys on the weak and vulnerable.
At MOES, people intervened when the food piled up and rotted in her tent. She always carried away too much when volunteers showed up with sandwiches and other food offerings. Friends and staff members helped her clean up. They reminded her about the need for personal hygiene, and helped her access shower facilities.
Little Sherry’s cats became a constant joy for her, and were the one ongoing subject of every conversation. “Her cats are everything to Sherry,” said people who knew her.
When one of the cats was chased by a dog and scampered up a nearby oak, Little Sherry was distraught. Then a very vocal volunteer began pressuring the on duty police officer to rescue the cat. After incessant nagging, he called the fire department.
The ensuing rescue featuring the Modesto Fire Department’s large hook and ladder truck was a touching reminder of what can happen when a community cares. In this case, the community was a homeless encampment, but a community nonetheless. Little Sherry got her cat back.
When MOES closed down in December, 2019, Little Sherry was moved to the Stanislaus County Low Barrier Shelter in the Berberian Building at 9th and D Streets in Modesto, just a couple of blocks from MOES. At some point, likely the result of work by county staff, Little Sherry began receiving an income through a payee. Payees are assigned to people who have difficulty managing money. Ordinarily, payees make sure their clients’ rent and other fixed expenses are paid before disbursing any remaining funds.
Little Sherry was also assigned a case manager. From that point on, like many homeless people who are directed to congregate living, Little Sherry began to wander away from the low barrier shelter. No one knows exactly when she left. She’s been on the streets near the shelter at least since the winter of 2020. People who know her fear someone may be taking advantage of her because of her income.
Earlier this year, Little Sherry was seen on south 9th Street after Caltrans cleared a campsite along Highway 99. Caltrans, City of Modesto Police and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department have been operating under a new homeless policy since the beginning of this year.
The new policy includes “accountability” for homeless people. So far, the most obvious enforcement of accountability is the practice of breaking up homeless camps larger than ten people. Deprived of the sense of community that comes from group living, homeless people have found it harder to “have each other’s backs.”
In 2020, after MOES closed and many of its residents returned to city parks, there was much talk of “taking back the parks.” Though the homeless are routinely chased away, most parks in Modesto have as many or more homeless people than ever. Beard Brook Park is a lone exception.
Beard Brook Park, which never had much public use at any time, is closed. Like the former location for MOES, it is desolate, sere, and empty. No one is permitted in the park which once offered safe harbor to over three-hundred homeless people, including Little Sherry Lopez. Even the parking lot is empty, its entrances barricaded by large cement blocks.
It should be very reassuring that the park is safe now. Little Sherry can’t go to the park. No one can.
I don’t understand why they can’t be at the park everybody complains about him being in the Parks or around the residents or around their businesses why can’t they be a Beard Brook park if it’s not being used
Because Gallo said they can’t.
Alma Martinez says
I have a place for some homeless to go but needs remodeling, and I need financial assistance. My parents passed and left property to us siblings. I’ve always dreamed of opening a home to help people out because that is my nature and a goal I’ve always wanted to reach. It’s off 9 the street and it would be a dream come true.
Please contact me if you’ve like to discuss…
Ashley FitzHenry says
Frank hello my name is ashley this article gave me happiness and hope im VERY VERY intrested please email with any questions or comments thank you
Jill Duncan-Kahl says
Please reach out to the housing authority and it habitat for humanity
Carla T. Gorman says
I spent some really beautiful moments with this young woman. She loved to practice her EMT skills with me. How we let those who suffer among us, suffer even more is beyond me. Ending unnecessary suffering seems like a noble quest, even if we can’t get it 100% right, anything would be better than the way we all treat each other these days. I don’t need to agree with your political views, share a culture or even an ideology. The simple fact that you are human and I understand that early childhood trauma can and has, totally derailed billions of people through out history, is enough to compel me to be a part of the solution. Get yourself a front row seat to those in your community who suffer. Get to know them, hear their story, explore gratitude in your own life. Find the humanity in those you may not understand. I promise it will change you for the better.
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
― Horace Mann
Christi Z Zent says
I know about the EMT skills too. Next time I really need to bring some gloves and bandages for her to have for this purpose.
The pictures themselves tell the story of community and lack thereof. Look at the first picture and not only do you see Sherry in good spirits but look at what’s going on behind her, a group of smiling volunteers serving a meal. Contrast this picture to the starkness of the shelter and her aloneness in the third picture. Equally disturbing is the nearly always empty parking lot that could easily accommodate livable structures to create a community. Finally, the last picture is without words as it speaks for itself. What I see is a person, a fellow human being, that was abandoned by the various systems of care because she didn’t fit their model to get help! God help us all if this is what we’ve become.
Frank Damrell says
Debbie Garcia says
Just leave the homeless alone forsake they don’t really don’t bother anyone, that have no place else to go & when you people open a damn shelter it’s only temporarily and then you dump them in the streets again so leave them alone and where they are Now and stop acting like you city , state , government really give a damn cause you don’t care about the children people homeless in the streets, I’ve been homeless myself and no one cares about us when we need help or are cold hungry or sick so the city state government DONT CARE ABOUT THE HOMELESS EITHER
Wow, so many bleeding hearts but not a single one is capable of doing anything without “Needing help, assistance” or complaining about the government… Well from an average citizens aspect and not some liberal bleeding heart I can tell you that the rest of us find the homelessness and how the state of California allows it is absolutely disgusting! Open drug use, open sexual acts, open display of trespassing, MASSIVE amounts of litter, massive amounts of drug paraphernalia… And someone a small portion of you think this is okay?!?! It’s not, nor will it ever be!
So, you, too, Fedup, are complaining about the state of California (the government). So we have something in common. I am fed up, also.
With all the money, supposedly, earmarked to alleviate the suffering of those who live without a home (other than [perhaps] a temporary tent or shelter), one would think that those in charge of how that money is spent would have guilty consciences eating away at them. But, “NO” they do NOT…
Well informed sources KNOW WELL the dirty hands washing one another, at the expense of those who are suffering (for multiple immediately out of control reasons), including those teetering on the edge, wondering how long they can hold out, before they themselves go over, along with those who went before them.
This a daunting situation, most of us, are caught up in, one way or another.
In the MEANWHILE, others are not only shirking their responsibilities to DO what they were voted or appointed to DO. INSTEAD, they ROB THE COFFERS, while, saying to one another, “YOU SCRATCH MY BACK AND I’LL SCRATCH YOURS”!!!
YES, WE THE PEOPLE OUGHT TO BE FED UP ENOUGH TO PUT AN END TO THEIR COZY CONSPIRACY: LET US FOLLOW THE MONEY BY DEMANDING AN ACCURATE ACCOUNTING OF EVERY PENNY THAT PASSED FROM EACH AND EVERY ENTITY.
TRANSPARENT ACCOUNTABILITY. LETS START WITH MODESTO. I AM FED UP WATCHING CITY COUNCIL BUNCH UP A NUMBER OF EXPENDITURES UNDER A SINGLE VOTE ITEM, WITH NO EXPLANATIONS, EVEN WHEN ASKED.
FOR INSTANCE: WHEN ASKED HOW MUCH THE NEW HOMES IN THE PLANNED BANGS/CARVER AREA HOUSING DEVELOPMENT ARE EXPECTED TO SELL FOR, THE RESPONSE WAS VERY UNSATISFACTORY. WE WERE NOT EVEN OFFERED A BALL PARK FIGURE. GUARANTEED, WHOMEVER ENTERED INTO THAT DEAL DID NOT DO SO WITHOUT ANY DISCUSSION OF DETAILED FIGURES.
AS NECESSARY AS HOUSING IS, LOCALLY, WE ARE ENTITLED TO ANSWERS, NOT SHRUGGED OFF, TO SAVE TIME OR TO STAVE OFF DISCUSSION OR DISSENT…
I RESEARCHED THE CONSULTANT, PLACEWORKS, VOTED IN, BY MODESTO’S CITY COUNCIL, 7/6/21, WHO AGREED TO CONTRACT TO PERFORM: [AS PART OF MODESTO CITY’S 2020-2025 STRATEGIC PLAN, ESTABLISHING THE HIGH PRIORITY OF] A COMPREHENSIVE GENERAL PLAN UPDATE (GPU), AND ASSOCIATED ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT (EIR), FOR A TOTAL NOT TO EXCEED $1,737,353.00.
ONE KEY ELEMENT, NOT SO UNCOMMON, TO BE FOCUSED ON IS A BASE LINE ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT TO HELP ALL DECISION MAKERS DETERMINE, ” KIND OF WHERE MODESTO, IS AS A CITY, ECONOMICALLY AND WHERE MODESTO WANTS TO GO, BECAUSE OF THE LINK TO LAND USE DECISIONS”.
LAND USE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ARE DIRECTLY TIED. MODESTO WANTS TO HAVE SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION TO SET THE STAGE FOR MODESTO’S LAND USE DECISIONS AND PLANNING BOUNDARIES.
ADDED TO THIS MONUMENTAL COST, IS THE UNFREEZING OF AN ASSOCIATE PLANNER POSITION – $340,000 OVER 3 YEARS, TO HELP STAFF MANAGE THE CONSULTANT CONTRACT FOR THIS MONUMENTAL TASK, FOR A TOTAL BUDGET NEEDS [DEBATABLE] OF $2,O77,353.00 FOR THE PROJECT BUDGET.
THIS WAS WHERE MODESTO WAS BY END OF CITY COUNCIL MEETING, AS OF JULY 6, 2021, WITH A PROJECT ESTIMATED TO TAKE THREE (3) YEARS.
HOLD ON MODESTO, WE MAY BE MOVING TOO FAST, FOR THE PLANNING DIVISION TO CATCH UP, WITH MODESTO’S REAL FELT NEEDS.
MODESTO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS WERE PROMISED, FOR THEIR VOTE, THAT FOR THIS “JUST NORTH OF $2M, THE CONSULTANT, PLACEWORKS, WILL TRULY “ENGAGE” WITH MODESTO CITIZENS TO LEARN WHAT WE WANT FOR MODESTO. PLACEWORKS HAS WHAT IS CALLED: A HOUSING “ELEMENT”.
WHAT CONCERNS ME IS THAT IT APPEARS PLACEWORKS USES A TEMPLATE TYPE OF PLAN, AS TO WHAT IT MEANS BY “ENGAGING”. A QUESTIONAIRE HERE, A MEETING THERE, AND PLACEWORKS WILL TAKE OVER FROM THERE.
BROUSE PLACEWORKS WEBSITE AND SEE FOR YOURSELF. FOR A CONSULTANT, PLACEWORKS CERTAINLY USES ALOT OF ACTION WORDS, DENOTING THAT THEY WILL BE MORE IN CONTROL THAN MODESTO WILL BE. AFTERALL THEY NEED TO EARN THEIR JUST SOUTH OF $2M.
WILL THE PLANNING DIVISION GIVE MODESTO A SOLID FIGURE OF THE AMOUNT OF REAL TIME HOURS THEY ARE WILLING TO SPEND WITH MODESTO CITIZENS? ALSO, WE WANT THEIR QUESTIONNAIRE AND THE SCOPE OF WHAT THEY WILL BE WANTING FROM US, INORDER TO DO A SATISFACTORY PROJECT FOR US.
I DO NOT WANT TO SEE MODESTO CITIZENS BEING ASKED ON THE FLY, WHAT IT IS WE WANT, WITHOUT AMPLE TIME TO BE PREPARED WITH WELL THOUGHT OUT ANSWERS. I WANT US TO START THINKING IMMEDIATELY. THREE YEARS OR NOT. I DONT WANT SOMEONE ELSE MAKING OUR MINDS UP FOR US, AS USUAL.
THERE HAVE BEEN ALOT OF MILLION+ DOLLAR PRICE TAGS BEING VOTED FOR, AT CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS, AND WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW MUCH MORE, AND CITY COUNCIL HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW MORE OF WHAT IS ON OUR MINDS.
WHAT SAY YOU, ALL?
EXCUSE ANY TYPOS, I AM PRESSED FOR TIME BUT NEEDED TO GET THIS OUT…
Warren McGuffin says
Only liars scream in run-on sentences.
Bet you have no solution
Are you slinging GUFF, McGuffin?
What is your solution?
Where did you hear such nonsense about run- on sentences?
It does appear something got under your skin…
Thank you for, atleast, replying something toward these ISSUES.
Hopeful Citizen says
What makes you so sure you are an “:average citizen”? Your clearly biased views coupled with a propensity to label other viewpoints as “bleeding heart” doesnt seem like any of the “average citizens ” I’m familiar with. If this is the average view of the people/citizens that you have within your life ,that’s sad…for you. I would suggest getting out and talking to new people outside your sphere of “average citizens”you may find your opinions to be somewhat more on the fringe than you might think. Also investing a small amount of your time in community outreach can go along way towards building a better sense of empathy, which builds character which may help you attract better people into your life as well.