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A way Manteca can help homeless & clean up the city

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POSTED February 21, 2013 9:22 p.m.

Manteca’s panhandling ordinance is a bust.

So are most efforts to help the chronic homeless.

These people have to eat. They have to live somewhere. They have to go to the bathroom. They also can be a deterrent to other people enjoying parks.

Perhaps solving the homeless problem is impossible.

But then again if you can’t solve it, why not strive to at least make it better for everyone from the homeless to those who have issues with them?

Manteca might want to consider following Palo Alto’s lead.

The City of Palo Alto has recruited the homeless since 2006 to help keep parks and other municipal landscaping free of trash and weeds. And they did it without creating a big expensive bureaucracy with tons of loopholes to jump through.

They signed a contract with a non-profit agency which in turn secured the homeless for piecemeal work in which they are paid in gift cards. The gift cards issued are for everything from food to shelter.

Since it has been in place, Palo Alto has reported a significant drop in panhandling and a vast improvement in the appeal of their downtown districts and parks.

Manteca could so something similar.

First, they could take bonus bucks (when they start collecting them again) and fund a yearly contract. Five new homes under proposed developer agreements now being considered at city hall would generate $40,000 in bonus bucks.

That money could be used to contract with a non-profit in Manteca that deals with the homeless or those in danger of becoming homeless. The contract could be very specific. It could allow $12,500 for management, $2,500 for materials such as gloves and garbage bags, and the rest - $25,000 - to pay for gift cards. Some specially tailored to low-budget hotels or Goodwill-style stores may have to be created. But for the most part they could be your run-of-the-mill store gift card at places like Target, Walmart, supermarkets, clothing stores, and fast food places.

The city could delineate exactly what has to be done in specific locations, such as litter collection and weed pulling. And like Palo Alto, they can designate the day and hours the work has to be performed.

The non-profit can then determine the payment in gift cards for a contracted homeless person tackling a specific project.

It’s not a cure-all solution, but it could make a big dent in panhandling as well as providing the homeless with basic needs. But instead of handing it to them, they’d have to earn it.

As an added bonus, the skills and work ethic they establish could eventually be used to obtain other jobs.

It also makes the homeless part of the solution for the problems - real and perceived - that they are blamed for creating. The program also would give them a measure of dignity.

Will such a program solve the homeless problem? No. Will it improve the looks of the city? Yes. Will it reduce panhandling? More than likely. Will it give the homeless a door that could open to the eventual return to non-homeless status? It could.

Right now, Manteca’s anti-panhandling efforts aren’t working and there is no ongoing effort to address the homeless, their needs, and the problems they create.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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