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Build a men’s shelter & they will come

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POSTED July 10, 2010 3:08 a.m.
Do we really want to address the issue of homeless single men in Manteca?

Empathy aside, there is nothing that is served trying to find a solution as ultimately you will create a bigger problem.

The “homeless” for the most part are Manteca residents. And of those, most aren’t really sleeping on the street or in vehicles although you will find those that do. Instead most sleep on couches, in garages, and such of friends and relatives that they bounce around from one to another. For whatever reason, they can’t - or won’t - support themsleves to the point they can afford their own shelter.

A spouse of a Manteca Police officer lamented during a heated council meeting last fall over the proposed police compensation reduction versus layoffs debate that her husband was exposed to dangers because city leaders hadn’t bothered to address the homeless problem.

That isn’t exactly the case. HOPE Ministries operates three shelters in Manteca that help homeless families as well as homeless mothers and children. They have quietly assisted more than 2,000 families since 1992 with a success rate pushing 65 percent. And by success, that means being able to manage their finances well enough to secure rental housing and consistently make monthly rent payments.

As for helping homeless men, be careful what you ask for. Build a men’s shelter and they will come. Just ask Stockton, Modesto, and Turlock.
Turlock’s decision to open a homeless shelter near their downtown has generated nothing but problems. One reason is word gets out when a community has a drop-in shelter for the homeless.

But what about Manteca’s own homeless or more specifically single men who are essentially relying on others to provide a place to sleep? Library Park doesn’t make them criminals. Yes, there are those among them who use drugs and consume alcohol too much and in the wrong places. That, however, would happen whether there was a homeless shelter for single men in Manteca.

Does ignoring the plight of homeless men make Manteca cold as a community? It depends. For whatever reason, single men who are homeless tend to be less cooperative than families or women with children. They are not as willing to follow the rules set down by those offering them assistance.  They aren’t hobos that are free spirits as immortalized by Roger Miller in the lyrics of “King of the Road.”

At the same time, not all can be written off as hardcore anti-social types whether it involves alcohol, drugs, or just plain being sloth.

The best way to help such men is through efforts such as those taken for years by Paul Narcisse through Second Chance ministries.

Narcisse made it a personal crusade to help down and out men who were either homeless or living in efficiency boarding rooms on the second floor of downtown buildings to escape from their environment.

It isn’t an easy thing to do but Paul was persistent not in just helping them secure jobs and be presentable at the same time but also making sure they got to work every day until they were able to do so on their own.

It is doubtful that Library Park will become the urban space that it could in terms of being a daily part of the lives of families with children, families, couples, the elderly, and even singles if there is a universal sense of being uncomfortable due to the behavior  of a few of the “homeless.”

This might sound a tad like Big Brother but having security cameras in place being monitored by Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police volunteers is probably the best answer. Just because someone appears disheveled and ragged or is an adult spending the day in the park doesn’t mean people should be uncomfortable. Illegal behavior is what should - and does - make people uncomfortable.

An aggressive monitoring and deployment of officers when there is a sign of the least bit of lawlessness whether it is drinking, drug use or such can quickly change the tone. Cameras and close monitoring worked right after the skate park opened and things got out of hand. It should also work at Library Park.

The good news is that the camera system is in the pipeline to be installed in the next year.

As to why SHARP volunteers should be enlisted, having screens to monitor does no good if dispatchers are too busy handling calls and radio traffic.

It is really the only reasonable solution that balances the rights of everyone.
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