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A new homeless outreach center prepares to launch in Salinas’ Chinatown

By Celia Jiménez
The Monterey County Weekly, April 16, 2021

David Balch outside of the 1,300 square feet of space he and his wife, Christa, will have to work with, which includes a community room, two smaller rooms, a kitchenette and a parking area.

On Soledad Street in Salinas’ Chinatown, people live in tents and cardboard boxes, on the ground and mostly unseen from the city at large. A new center being developed by a doctor and a lawyer hopes to offer a little respite – with a little faith-based messaging thrown in – for the homeless.

Called Closer Walk, the effort is funded by attorney David Balch and his wife, physician Christa Balch, for now. They have applied for nonprofit status, which they hope to obtain by summer, and which will enable them to apply for grant and foundation funding.

David, a board member at Victory Mission, says the center will develop organically – he and his wife signed the lease on the space, in the former Chinatown Community Learning Center, just four days after contacting the landlord.

“We want to open now and just do what we can do,” he says. They will start with distributing water bottles, socks and doing music outreach.

The center will offer community space for homeless people to interact with each other and feel safe. Later on, the Balches hope to expand services and could provide mental health services, clinic days and skills development, as well as food and a clothing closet for people in need.

On April 17, Balch plans to meet with different organizations and faith groups to brainstorm what services the center should offer. The week after that, he will meet with doctors and therapists who are interested in offering services. They also will get the community involved to ask them what their needs are.

While the project is evolving, Balch hopes it will be open 9am-5pm most days. If enough volunteers step forward, they may be able to stay open longer.

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