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You won’t catch homeless plumber complaining

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You won’t catch homeless plumber complaining

Perry Origer takes off from Library Park Wednesday afternoon. Homeless on and off for nearly a decade, Origer knows the streets but also the community – having places to occasionally turn when cond...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED January 24, 2013 1:18 a.m.

Life isn’t easy for Perry Origer.

He’s homeless. He gathers cans at night to recycle for money along with the rest of Manteca’s homeless population. He’s constantly trying to protect his belongings from thieves.

And yet despite all of that, you won’t hear Origer complaining much about his lot in life.

On the contrary.

The Manteca native – who spends his days along with others in Library Park, or places nearby – says that he has it better than most because of connections that he has in the community that occasionally earns him a shower or lands him on a couch when the temperature plummets.

It’s not exactly the life that the one-time plumber had hoped for at age 50. He has been homeless on and off for the better part of a decade, but he knows that things could be far worse.

“I’m lucky that I know people and have friends because a lot of these people don’t have a place to stay,” he said. “In the winter, when it’s cold, if you don’t know people it’s really hard to find somewhere to go.”

Those connections, however, don’t erase the difficulty of being homeless.

After the Manteca City Council passed an ordinance that effectively outlawed panhandling at intersections in the community, finding ways to earn money became even more difficult for the often overlooked community of homeless males. He is unable to turn to the HOPE Family Shelter or the single-mom oriented Raymus House.

That presented only two options: either find a way to get to the shelters in Stockton or start scrounging for recyclables at night in order to make enough money to buy something to eat the following day.

The Stockton shelters, Origer said, aren’t ever a sure bet and are often overloaded when the mercury dips towards the freezing mark. So “canning” became the only real viable legal option.

Even that, he says, draws the ire of the police – who are also proactive at preventing any encampments similar to those that spring up in Stockton from forming anywhere within Manteca’s city limits.

“It’s impossible to find any place to stay in Manteca because they’re going to run you off, even if the property owner doesn’t care whether you stay there or not,” he said. “It’s just one of the things that you have to deal with.”

On Wednesday afternoon rain began to fall in the early afternoon as Origer socialized with nearly a dozen other homeless Manteca residents under the gazebo at Library Park.

A garbage bag sat behind a group of people that were playing a makeshift game of Yahtzee, and people would periodically make their way over to the bag to discard empty cans or wrappers or anything else that they didn’t want to leave behind to wear out an already thin welcome.

The rain, which fell sporadically, was a sign that the bitter cold that covered the Central Valley in frost for nearly two weeks wouldn’t be present when the sun finally went down, but there wasn’t much celebration amongst the crowd.

It’s the summertime that Origer looks forward to. The time of year, he said, when you can grab a bath in a canal or jump into the river with a bar of soap and cool off while catching a quick wash.

“You can always cool down but there’s only so much you can do to keep warm,” he said. “You’re not out there freezing to death during the summer.”

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