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Making it hard to be homeless in Manteca

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POSTED August 26, 2014 11:56 p.m.

It’s time to get serious about the homeless in Manteca.

And if done right, the situation can be improved without building an adult homeless shelter.

First we all have to agree on a few things. The homeless have rights. There are homeless who became that way while living in Manteca and are not problems pushed our way by other communities. We have no obligation to help those who don’t follow the rules. We need to help those that are willing to work to get back on their own two feet. And we need to take additional steps beyond the eight-point plan outlined by Police Chief Nick Obligacion and embraced by the Manteca City Council.

Essentially we need to force those who are willing to help themselves to get help and force those not willing to do so to move on. So how do you do that legally?

You take away their source of income and ability to thrive on the streets on their own terms. At the same time you put in place a program where they can earn money while searching for a job.

First, the city needs to take away recyclables as a source of income for the homeless.

This would require all places where people typically use public trash cans — gas stations, fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and city parks as an example — to have trash receptacles of the same bear proof design the National Park Service uses. 

The city would also require that commercial garbage bins for select businesses such as restaurants, service stations, grocery stores, and such that tend to collect a high number of redeemable recyclable cans and containers and dispose of food be secured by locks that only city crews and the stores involved would have keys to open.

This cuts off two major sources of income and food for the homeless.

If you doubt that check out the homeless who routinely rummage through trash cans often with six or so different ones hitting the same gas station every day. People tossing empty soda cans and such when they are fueling is a big source of recyclables.

More than a few restaurants have problems with the homeless rummaging through their trash containers tossing garbage on the ground and leaving it as they search for leftovers and such that have been thrown out.

The city needs to enlist school and community groups to actively engage in collecting recyclable cans and containers as fundraisers on a year-round basis.

If a typical household tosses out 20 recyclable containers with a nickel redemption valve in a week that represents $1. Multiply that by 23,000 households and there is a potential for non-profits and such to rake in $23,000 in a week. Over a course of a year, that represents potential income of $1,196,000 for Manteca nonprofits.

You can make it illegal to take recyclables and such from residential Toters placed for city collection but unless you are going to hire dozens of cops to enforce it and figure a way to make a citation mean something — remember this is San Joaquin County — you’ll be more successful trying to make gold out of cat hair.

Recyclables left in Toters are a huge source of income for the homeless.

If we really want to stop enabling them, we have to take away a source of upwards of $1.2 million a year for them.

The city does get credit from the firm it sends its recyclables that are collected on refuse routes but if it works to reduce the homeless number in Manteca it would be worth a slight hike in garbage rates.

Dry up what they can mine and the odds are most homeless will roam to another locale much like miners did in the 19th century in moving from one mining claim to another when mines played out.

As for the local homeless who are willing to work toward getting to the point of being able to support themselves and get off the streets, there needs to be a central daytime drop-in center where they can access resources, go to the bathroom (since soon it will be illegal to do so in public under the police chief’s plan) as well as clean up for job interviews. It would need to have bathrooms with showers but should also have lockers for personal belongings and perhaps even a washer and dryer.  

In addition, the city could set aside perhaps $40,000 or so a year for a litter clean-up program. They could offer anyone — although clearly it would be aimed at the homeless — a $5 bounty in the form of fast food credit vouchers per 30-gallon bag they return for litter and/or weed clean-up. The bags could be processed at the solid waste division.

By not paying cash you assure you aren’t bankrolling drugs and booze although they could conceivably trade the vouchers for such items. Since park and public trash receptacles would be bear proof and homeless proof you would prevent them from simply filling the bags with the contents of trash cans.

If the city makes it illegal — and nearly impossible — to steal from Toters as well as public and private trash cans Manteca will be taking away a key reason why the homeless are able to afford to be on our streets.

At the same time we need to make sure that those that want help can get it and can earn food and have a bit of human dignity with bathrooms they can use while they are looking for work.

 

This column is the opinion of executive 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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