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TALE OF 2 ‘HOMELESS’ MANTECAS

The druggies & vagrants versus those that want off the streets

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TALE OF 2 ‘HOMELESS’ MANTECAS

The Manteca Library is ground zero for Manteca’s multi-front battle to deal with homeless issues.

DENNIS WYATT/The Bulletin/


POSTED September 7, 2017 1:30 a.m.

The Manteca Quilters membership  is among the collateral damage  in Manteca’s struggle to address homeless issues and the criminal element that often shadows them.
“A lot of our members have quit because they are intimidated by them,” Manteca Quilters President Janet Dyk shared with an overflow crowd at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that was on hand to press elected leaders about pursing more strategies to address the homeless and crimes connected with vagrancy.
The Quilters gather the fourth Tuesday of every month from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the McFall Room of the Manteca Library that — along with adjacent Library Park and Wilson Park — has become the epicenter of the public opinion storm as well as efforts to address the homeless situation. Over the past year, the homeless had taken to sitting and laying in front of the Center Street door to the McFall Room as well on the east side of the library where the night book drop box is located. The homeless were stopped from damaging the courtyard and leaving debris each night after bedding down there after the city installed wrought iron fencing to secure the area.
The intimidation the elderly women feel, Dyk said, has sent their membership numbers plummeting from 160 down to 120.
The crowd Tuesday wasn’t anti-homeless per se. Many of those having problems with the homeless agreed with Steve Parson of Love INC’s characterization that the “true homeless” that aren’t creating problems should be referred to as “the unhoused.” They even applauded when advocates working with the homeless shared their own stories of how they have come back from the abyss of drugs and being on the streets to become sober and productive citizens.
The video story of Wes Brown — who along with his wife became homeless for 11 months — until Manteca Police community resource officer Mike Kelly was able to connect him with those that could help the couple get off the street — also moved those who have had their fill  of homeless problems.
Manteca’s homeless
sometimes get apples,
eggs & other
items thrown at them
Brown, who lived on the streets of Manteca, shared how people would, throw eggs, apples and other things at the homeless and have even assaulted them.
“We’re human beings too,” Brown said.
Such stories — and the efforts of homeless advocates that are working with those that want to get off the street — effectively sharpened the point that has been driving Manteca’s homeless effort to date: There are the homeless that for all practical purposes aren’t creating problems and then there are those who do create problems. And among those problem makers — or lumped in with them — are a liberal share of substance abusers and other criminals that use the homeless as a cover of sorts.
It was also clear that few people, if any, consider the homeless problem simply as being a downtown issue.
Several residents spoke of how now that Kmart has closed, more and more homeless and/or criminal element are hanging around the premises of the Northgate Drive store.
Among them was Jennifer Mount who has witnessed increased drug activity in nearby Kingswood Park and has had her home broken into twice and cars four times. She has also seen homeless drop their pants to go to the bathroom without regard to who can see what they are doing.
“I don’t blame the police,” Mount said as she noted the staffing level on graveyard shifts is as few as four officers.
She noted Manteca is committing two community resource officers to a hundred or so homeless then asked “who is protecting the other (75,000) residents” in reference to what she believes is a police staffing level that is precariously low.
Mount said that is has gotten to the point her family is thinking of selling their home and moving out of Manteca.
Others — new residents and those that have lived in Manteca for 30 plus years — stepped up to the podium to volunteer their services to help be a part of the solution while others stressed the need to team up with the city “to take (Manteca) back.”
But the brunt of the trouble with homeless, judging by comments of citizens from throughout Manteca, centers on downtown.
Councilwoman Moorhead
said she no longer
goes downtown
At one point Councilwoman Debby Moorhead said she has stopped going downtown because she fears for her safety.
That was viewed by some after the meeting as a bit of an extreme stance given the number of businesses that struggle with homeless issues while still serving  robust customer base from seven financial institutions and three furniture stories to successful ethnic markets dining spots, specialty stores and more.
Even so, a number of business owners said the challengers are taking their toll.
Among the issues:
uFeces being left in doorways and urine splattered walls that are cleaned before business are opened in the morning.
uThe homeless sleeping on private property.
uTents that have been pitched on the top of buildings.
uLarge items such as a leather couch that the homeless have deposited at Wilson Park.
uOngoing graffiti problems that when a property owner misses it and fails to abate it within 10 days they are slapped with $280 fines by the city.
uIssues with massage parlors.
uHomeless behavior that is chasing away some patrons such as at a boutique fitness gym that has dealt with naked homeless individuals running and screaming from a fire damaged used car lot office that has just been razed  to those that aggressively panhandle.
uBuilding owners that have vacant property they have failed to maintain and rent that have become a magnet for homeless and other criminal activity.
uCopious amounts of garbage — often clothes left by those thinking they are helping the homeless — that end up being tossed away by the people they ant to help in city parks, alleys, and other locations.
 
Solutions council instructed
staff to explore & possible
put in place
The City Council  Tuesday directed City Manager Tim Ogden to further explore eight options for possible implementation to step up the city’s efforts to combat homelessness and vagrancy.
uWork with non-profits or the private sector to establish a day center, perhaps in the downtown area. Such efforts that did not include overnight shelters in other cities have served as resource centers to help homeless secure jobs as well as to get their belongings and such off the streets during the day and provide them a place to hang out.
uIncreased enforcement and using technology to address criminal and municipal violations. This could include installing street surveillance such as are in place in Ripon.
uSwitching to uniform citywide park closure times from sunset to sunrise to allow for more consistency.
uPost no panhandling signs at hot spots where it is outlawed.
uWork with the development community to build more affordable housing.
uEstablish temporary animal shelter solutions for homeless pets in instances where the homeless won’t enter programs to get off the street due to their pets.
uDevelop a video collection of homeless stories to educate the public on why people end up on the streets.
uDesign parks and developments so landscaping doesn’t create cover for the homeless.
Mayor Steve DeBrum wanted the possibility secured drop boxes for needles used to inject drugs to be placed in strategic locations be include among the options that are given further consideration for possible implementation.

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