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Reaching out to the unsheltered

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Brady Bateman and Tom Carroll, both volunteers from Calvary Community Church’s Living Well Ministries, prepare hot meals for people at the annual Manteca homeless count on Thursday – part of a coun...


POSTED January 27, 2017 12:50 a.m.

For the last 25 years Bill Mendelson has made it his mission to get homeless people placed into permanent residences.
And as San Joaquin County has grown and the influx of Bay Area transplants has driven rental prices through the roof, it has been harder and harder for people like Mendelson and his Central Valley Low-Income Housing Corporation to give people the hand up they need.
But that hasn’t deterred their effort.
On Thursday, Mendelson was one of the principal organizers of the annual “homeless count” held at Wilson Park behind the Manteca Post Office and at the Manteca Gospel Resources Center (also known at the homeless resource center) on East Yosemite Avenue. As the first one to organize an official homeless count in San Joaquin County in the 1980s, Mendelson said that he knows the benefits of being able to network with the unsheltered homeless in the community and to gather all of the resources they may need in a single place so that they can get the help they need and the opportunity to improve their situation.
“By having events like this it shows the community that yes, there is an issue such as homelessness in their community and also shows them that there are resources working to help solve that issue,” Mendelson said. “Today we had San Joaquin County Public Health and Behavioral Health out here, the Social Security office and medical services from the Community Medical Center’s Care Link program.
“It’s easy for us to go to shelters to find out how many homeless people are utilizing those resources, but it’s a little bit more difficult when you’re trying to put a number on the unsheltered homeless and that’s what we’re trying to track today.”
While Manteca has always had a homeless population, as the city has grown – now reportedly housing 75,000 people within the city limits – the issue became much more public with a continuous presence at places like Library Park and at makeshift encampments along the freeways and behind businesses.
That phenomenon, Mendelson said, goes along with the statistic that the larger a city gets, the larger the percentage of homeless people who are part of that makeup – something that he saw prove to be true as Stockton grew to eclipse 315,000 people.
But as cities adapt to learn to deal with the populations, Mendelson said that he was thrilled at what the City of Manteca has done by dedicating the resources of two full-time Community Resource Officers in order to both hold the homeless population accountable and serve as a pipeline to agencies like his that are waiting to help as many people as possible.
“I think that what Manteca is doing is a good example of what can be done,” he said. “The kind of commitment that Mike Kelly has brought to the job is the same sort of commitment that will make an impact on the lives of the people on the street who need this kind of help.
“I hope that it serves as an example of what can be done. Every city is a little bit different not everything will work everywhere, but it’s a good starting point – Stockton has officers that come out and assist, and Tracy does the same thing. But for a city similar in size like Tracy or Lodi – it’s a good template.”
On top of getting the “count” on Thursday, groups like Calvary Community Church’s Living Well Ministries were on hand to serve a hot meal to all who came down to talk to the various agencies that had set up. While the church has been an active part of reaching out to the homeless community, efforts administered through Living Well help people who need it every week.
“We’re here to let people know that we are here, we do care and we’re willing to help where we can,” said ministry director Julie MacGregor. “We provide groceries every Monday and Wednesday at 11 a.m. and help provide information about resources to whoever needs them – everybody is welcome.
“This coordinated effort has really streamlined the ability of groups to deliver services to those who need it, and it has given a point of direction and energy to those who are doing the work. I think that the organization is really paying off.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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