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The fear: Problems will spread

Homeless, vagrants concerns are citywide, not just downtown

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The fear: Problems will spread

Homeless congregate with their belongings at Wilson Park behind the Post Office in downtown Manteca.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED September 5, 2017 1:06 a.m.

The Kmart store on Northgate Drive is now closed.
And that concerns nearby residents like Jennifer Mount.
She lives two blocks away in what she describes as a nice neighborhood.
But lately Mount and her neighbors have seen a trend developing that they fear will spread like cancer as Kmart clears out of the store for good. During the past few months nearby Kingswood Park has become a sleeping area for homeless while drug use has increased along with car and house break-ins in the general area, according to neighbors.
Their fear isn’t unfounded. Manteca has a checkered past of shuttered commercial and industrial buildings turning into havens for homeless and vagrants  to the detriment of nearby property owners and residents. The list includes burned out structures, those gutted for electrical wiring, and those simply trashed — Indy Electronics, the Sycamore Arms, the old Sunnyvalley Meats building, the used car sales lot office in downtown, three warehouses on Moffat Boulevard, the old San Joaquin County ag office, and dozens of vacant homes. Mount and others fear the 107,489-square-foot Kmart building will serve as a magnet to draw even more homeless and vagrants to their neighborhood.
Some are thinking about moving and selling their homes. Mount doesn’t fault the Manteca Police due to what she believes is severe lack of manpower.
“My goodness, there is only four (officers) on a graveyard shift,” she said in an email.
The concerns of residents in north Manteca underscores issues dealing with the homeless and vagrants involve more than just the downtown, commercial areas, and along freeway right of way.
Citizens who believe the situation is not getting  better despite city efforts so far that have gotten 140 homeless off the streets during the past 14 months and have stepped up enforcement of quality of life laws prompted the City Council to discuss additional strategies the city could employ. They will be the subject of discussion during tonight’s 7 o’clock City Council meeting at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
And even though crime overall is dropping as a whole citywide, residents point to the broken window theory that law enforcement often cites that’s a precursor to major blight and crime. There’s a growing sense among some that if Manteca doesn’t take more steps now, homeless and vagrants could spread major problems creating a situation that mirrors parts of Stockton.
Among the strategies being presented tonight is eight that the city has previously looked at within the legal limitations Manteca and other jurisdictions must follow. They include:
uIncrease enforcement and use of technology to address criminal and municipal code violations.
uContinue employing crime prevention through environmental design to deter criminal behavior in city parks and public landscape areas.
uThe Parks and Recreation Department has the authority to revise all public parks hours to sunrise to sunset instead of at set hours for increased consistency city-wide.
uWorking with the development community to increase additional transitional and affordable housing options to further reduce homelessness stemming from the high rent impacts of the housing market.
uPartner with the private sector to locate and operate a day center concept downtown.
uPost “no panhandling” signs in hot spot areas that are consistent with restrictions delineated in the municipal code.
uIdentify possible animal shelter solutions for homeless pets that otherwise restrict the homeless’ ability to utilize shelter options.
uDevelop a video story collection of homeless individuals to better educate the public.
Staff has noted the second community resource officer that would allow the city to go from having one officer dedicate to homeless and related issues four days a week for 10 hours a day to seven day coverage will start the first week of October.
Possible partnership strategies with the community include:
uDirecting the city mangers to work with key stakeholders to establish a “Manteca Leadership Roundtable” that is independent of the city and comprised of decision makers from the business, faith-based, housing, school, county, and non-profit communities to discuss homelessness. It could be expanded to discuss other communitywide issues.
uCommunity workshops to educate the public about how to use trespassing notices and properly utilize citizen arrest protocols as warranted.
uStep up working with San Joaquin County to avoid duplication of services so resources can be directed more effectively to addressing homeless issues.
uTrain and encourage citizens to directly engage homeless with resource information complementing the city’s community resource officer’s efforts.
uEncourage the faith-based and other non-profit organizations to consolidate their feeding operations at rotating locations other than downtown.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyattt@mantecabulletin.com

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