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Using 96-gallon carts to address homeless issues

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POSTED August 23, 2017 1:40 a.m.

Let’s be honest.
The homeless in Manteca do not have a history of attacking non-homeless people. I admit I’ve been brushed and bumped by a guy I call “Popeye” while jogging to In Shape several times, but it wasn’t confrontational. If he wanted to inflict hurt he could have easily done so the first time he intentionally bumped me. The guy has mental issues.
They tend not to be confrontational or aggressive except sometimes with their peers. The homeless can be territorial about their “places” as we are about our homes. It’s human nature whether you’re on the street or a pay check or two from there.
What really bugs most folks is what they look like and the stuff they cart around, stash here and there, or discard on public and private property.
That’s why part of the puzzle to reduce quality of life crimes and to treat the homeless — regardless of why they are on the street — a bit more human are the city’s 96-gallon blue recycling, garbage and yard waste carts.
To you and I the stuff the homeless lug around is nothing but trash. For the homeless they are primarily possessions they need to survive whether its personal hygiene items, clothing, food, bedding — you name it. They can ill afford to leave it stashed somewhere in bushes due to fears it could be stolen or disposed of by irate property owners.
How much would it improve things if the piles of belongings you see in places like Wilson Park behind the Post Office in downtown as well as shopping carts pushed around town overflowing with homeless belongings went away or were drastically reduced?
I’d venture to say it would help to a fairly decent degree.
Manteca may want to consider pursuing what Venice and Los Angeles have done to address the issue of homeless carting around their stuff or killing time in parks along with piles of their worldly possessions.
They have set aside warehouse space and filled them with the garbage carts the city uses to allow homeless to store items in them for days or weeks at a time free of charge.
The Venice operation is strictly when that city’s winter homeless shelter is open. The non-profit operating the shelter will only allow people to bring with them for the night what they can carry. As a result a number of beds were left unused.
The LA model is year round and is based on efforts to get the homeless living on the street to reduce what they take with them wherever they go or bed down.
Called “The Bin”, the LA operation is run by a non-profit homeless assistance organization.
The Bin issues each homeless person a 60-gallon cart. They do not charge for the service. The homeless typically load up the carts in a manner that the things they need most often such as personal hygiene items and clothes are near the top. They are issued claim checks that they use along with ID to gain access to the carts during daily operational hours. The Bin sites also have racks for larger items. The LA operations due to their size and the number of people they serve have hours that reflect a normal working day including on weekends. Venice — which uses a semi-trailer instead — is available between 3 and 5 p.m.
The city “loaning” the use of carts for a non-profit to provide such a service would help reduce other costs they incur cleaning up belongings left willy nilly or when legally seizing homeless encampment items and holding to them for 30 days as required by law (Manteca actually goes 90 days).
It allows the homeless to look less homeless. It also keeps their belongings in better condition making it somewhat easier to be presentable. They don’t have to worry about their belongings being stolen nor or they creating what some see as a sore thumb visual distraction.
Does such a strategy end homelessness? Not really. Does it help make it less problematic for all parties — the public, the city, the police, and the homeless themselves? Yes.
It is clear a shelter for single adults (primarily men) in Manteca would be greeted with as much enthusiasm in the community as a whole as a Donald Trump rally at the University of California at Berkeley. If you think anyone can run a non-problematic single adult shelter in terms of impacting the surrounding neighborhood, take a drive by the St. Mary’s Dining Room in Stockton where you will find such a shelter. If you still want a single adult homeless shelter after that, then start lobbying the City Council now to have it placed in or near your neighborhood instead of someone else’s.
A day drop-in shelter with services aimed at helping homeless get off the street and obtain medical care, perhaps food service, perhaps have a place to shower, and possibly a place just to hang out is much more do-able
Manteca is a crossroads. The city is meeting a fair amount of success at helping those on the streets that want to get off. There are those that aren’t budging. And then there are the vagrants and criminals that operate using the homeless essentially as cover.
The community — residents, non-profits, and the city — need to work in the realties that exist, legal and otherwise, to further reduce homeless issues as much as possible while at the same time stepping up legal pressures on people with vacant or burned out buildings that are breeding grounds for vagrancy. That also means stepping up efforts to deal with vagrants, tweakers, panhandlers — whatever you want to call them.

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