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Permanent job, not a job per se, trips up Manteca homeless woman

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Permanent job, not a job per se, trips up Manteca homeless woman

Homeless Manteca resident Amanda Daniels looks over some of the items that were given away to the homeless under the Library Park gazebo during Thursday’s homeless count.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED January 25, 2013 1:01 a.m.

Amanda Daniels doesn’t have a problem finding a job.

It’s finding a job that’s permanent that poses a problem for the 31-year-old homeless Mantecan, who just a year ago was managing a local restaurant that is no longer in business.

For the last six months she’s been living on the street with her boyfriend and doing everything that she can to get a foothold to pull herself out of a lifestyle that she is slowly growing accustomed to – learning the ins-and-outs about how not to get caught by police.

The daily routine can be a grind, she says, but it is their reality.

“You’ve got to be very careful about the things that you do in town. You’re not supposed to have a tent so you have to camo it and you can’t be seen coming into it or going away from it,” she said. “I have a phone but I can’t charge it anywhere unless I pay someplace, and getting a shower is a process by itself.

“It’s just the way it is.”

Thursday afternoon Daniels grabbed a seat just underneath the edge of the overhang of Library Park’s new gazebo while volunteers from San Joaquin County went around and surveyed those that showed up.

With a hot dog in her hand and a warm bowl of chili – courtesy of Stockton’s Salvation Army Rehabilitation Program – waiting, it was a rare chance for her to legitimately relax and not have to worry about getting hassled by either police officers enforcing city ordinances or residents pushing an aggressive stance.

It’s not that a hot plate of food is a rarity. She does have a camp stove near her makeshift home that runs off of propane and allows both her and her boyfriend to enjoy at least a slice of normalcy while adapting to the permanent conditions of life outdoors.

But the gas tanks usually don’t last very long and refilling them usually means panhandling, which is only legal in Manteca away from controlled intersections and the entrance to parking lots –places with the most traffic.

“You meet all kinds of people while you’re panhandling. I had somebody offer me a job housecleaning but I didn’t want to get into the car with a stranger,” she said. “But you want to be productive and self-sufficient and do what you can to get out of this position.

“I was the front end manager at a restaurant and I’ve had other jobs but they’ve all been seasonal. It’s hard to find work right now.”

While finding work is at the top of her list of things to do, Daniels says that she also tries to navigate the landmines that can make life on the street difficult for those who are not used to it.

Finding a suitable spot to panhandle, she said, can be quite contentious and even lead to fights over who will get the better corner.

Not getting picked up by the police – especially among those that have outstanding warrants – is a constant game of cat and mouse.

And even grabbing a few minutes of sleep during the day can be discouraging since she can’t just walk up to and climb into her tent without having to look over her shoulder.

“Being me is being illegal,” she said. “I can’t even rest without having to worry.

“It’s not very pleasant.”

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