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MOBILE TENT CITY

Good intentions undermine effort

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MOBILE TENT CITY

The homeless gather daily at Manteca’s Library Park.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 23, 2017 1:01 a.m.

When Mike Kelly gathered the non-profits and volunteer groups who wanted to make a dent in assisting the homeless in Manteca, the idea was all about streamlining.
By getting everybody working together instead of separately, the people who needed the resources would get them and the entire effort would be more efficient and less wasteful.
But in recent week weeks all of that has changed.
According to those who work with the homeless, somebody has donated tents, tarps and umbrellas to a large number of those who are on the street in the community – creating the kind of mobile tent city that Kelly, as the Manteca Police Community Resource Officer working as a liaison between the city and the homeless population, was hoping to avoid.
And it has made his job in offering assistance and upholding the law – a delicate balance that he struggles to maintain daily – much more difficult.
“There are definitely a lot more tents out there at night, and during the day people haul all of that stuff with them from where they sleep into Library Park,” Kelly said. “We know that people want to help, but we want it go through the proper channels first because that’s why they were set up.”
And the best intentions of people in the community that want to help don’t always materialize the way that those that work directly with the population would like.
While giving bags of clothes to the people who gather at Library Park seems like it would help those who struggle to keep warm at night, Kelly said that the majority of the things that are donated get strewn everywhere and what isn’t taken ends up being thrown away. The same thing happens when food is delivered – creating a scenario in one of Manteca’s most visible locations that Kelly would like to avoid at all costs.
Steps have been taken, he said, to make sure that people get the help that they need but those channels can’t operate unless they’re utilized.
When somebody comes to him and needs new clothing or new shoes or even a blanket, Kelly has facilitated a relationship with The Hope Chest – a thrift store that benefits Community Hospice – where he can give a voucher that’s redeemable for the items of clothing that are needed. By doing that it not only eliminates the possibility of litter strewn parks, but it also puts him in contact with people so that he’s able to offer other services that may be beneficial to them.
Since he started this job full-time in July – he had previously worked to address the homeless community on his own time – Kelly has helped 81 people get off of the streets and into temporary housing, drug and alcohol treatment facilities or need-specific shelters. He has also reunited people with their families and helped to restore the connection that had been strained through neglect or disagreements, and helped facilitate a balanced coalition of churches, community service groups, non-profits and government entities aimed at curbing what has become a quality of life issue for many home and business owners.
And in order for that coalition to work, he said, people need to be mindful of it.
“There are so many things that we’re doing – we have showers now and haircuts and people that are willing to transport people to where they need to go,” Kelly said. “And those groups can’t do what they’ve planned to do if they aren’t included.
“We came up with this idea because there was a lot of overlap and now there isn’t, but we still have people that do their own thing and it makes it more difficult for others that are also doing their part.”
Those wishing to get involved in volunteering to aid with the homeless population are encouraged to call Kelly at 209.456.8237. Those wishing to participate in future outreach programs – which happen monthly, and focus on getting out into the community and interacting with as many people as possible – can also reach out to find out when the next events are, and what is needed. Those wishing to donate clothing are encouraged to do so through The Hope Chest so that it ends up directly serving the homeless community.

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