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Frustrations vented over homeless at town hall

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POSTED September 8, 2017 1:17 a.m.

Rick Reese spends about 15 to 20 minutes each morning cleaning up the trash left over night in front of his Manteca business at Northgate Drive and North Main Street.
He knows it’s easy to blame the homeless on the debris and even defecating found along nearby dumpsters.
Reese, who was one of nearly 40 concerned and even frustrated folks at Thursday’s Town Hall at the Manteca Civic Center meeting on the ongoing homelessness issue, wasn’t one to necessarily categorize those making the daily mess as homeless.
“They’re referred to as ‘homeless’ but I know many are not,” said Reese, who has shown compassion for the homeless by providing free haircuts.
But at the same time, he wanted to know of any possible solutions available to him and his neighboring business folks.
“I think we’re all here for the same reason — we love our city,” said Reese, who was accompanied by his young son.
Manteca Police Chief Jodi Estarziau understood the frustration and at times the venting that took place during the 90-minute session.
“I only wish there was a pill that can help everyone,” she said, with hopes of finding a common ground between all parties.
Estarziau suggested that crimes, among the homeless or not, should be reported almost immediately.
She and Community Resource Officer Mike Kelly noted the reason for the town hall meeting was to allow for members of the community to voice their concerns on homelessness.
One person suggested that the City of Manteca take a closer look at donation bins, where clothes and other items are usually dumped off while usually creating a mess.
Kelly talked about the outreach efforts —- it was a rehash of the program to assist the homeless that he presented at Tuesday’s  City Council meeting.
“It’s all a process,” said Julie MacGregor, who is the director of Calvary Community Church’s Living Well Ministries and involved in the city’s outreach team efforts.
“We have the resources available to better assist (homeless people) and get them off the street,” she added.
Executive Director Douglas Montandon of Love INC of Manteca is also part of the outreach team.
He said the outreach team helps in making sure that the homeless are not overfed.
 “Too many times you have different groups coming and trying to help. What happens is that you get duplicates,” said Montandon, referring to these groups as meaning well while providing the homeless with abundance of food or clothing.
The outreach team streamlines that process, recommending that clothes, in this case, be donated to The Hope Chest for distribution.
“We can connect (the homeless) with someone who can help,” said Montandon of his Love INC., which is a network of churches.
Estarziau said there are no easy solutions.
“Homelessness is an extremely complex social problem that impacts the quality of life in our community,” she noted, adding that some are on the street because of substance abuse, mental illness or both.
Michelle Whitaker knows this from experience. She was among the homeless for seven years and arrested numerous times by Estarziau, Kelly and others.
She “took a chance” and got cleaned. Whitaker, who is active with the outreach team, now serves as a liaison with the Manteca homeless and the surrounding communities.
Since July, the outreach team have resourced 150 of the homeless in Manteca. Of that, 125 have remained off the streets, according to Kelly.
Only Lodi has a similar-type program.
“We’re the mold,” said Kelly, with Tracy, Stockton, and Los Banos taking a close look at this program.

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