All is not bad news in Manteca when it comes to homeless issues.
Standing in front of the HOPE Shelter in the 500 block of West Yosemite late Thursday afternoon, the nonprofit’s executive director Cecily Ballungay and three board members were being interviewed for a story marking the organization’s 25th anniversary when a man walking by with his young daughter stopped and greeted the four.
“I want to thank you for everything you did for us,” he said to Ballungay as well as HOPE Ministries board members Jennifer Gibson Greenwood, Steve Souza, and Ron Lafranchi who are all involved today with the nonprofit thanks to HOPE Ministries’ guardian angel — Bob Raymus.
The gentleman added that his family now has a place of their own, were paying their own bills, and were grateful for HOPE Family shelters
The man, his wife and three daughters were homeless a few years. Neither of them had jobs.
They stayed in the shelter for two months. Ballungay said staff determined they were strong candidates for the transitional housing HOPE operates where families stay for longer periods — typically a year — as they get back on their feet.
Today both the husband and wife hold jobs and are supporting their family.
It drives home the point how assisting established organizations with proven track records is a much more effective way of helping the homeless than dumping off clothes and food for them at various spots in town or enabling them to stay on the streets by essentially helping them survive via panhandling instead of turning to those who can mentor and assist them as long as they are willing to do the work necessary to get on their own two feet.
Based on tracking of clients since 2014, an astounding 100 percent of those who stayed at their family shelter on Yosemite Avenue or the single mom and kids shelter on Union Road that did not have a job when they turned to HOPE Ministries are all working today.
Of the 948 people they have sheltered since 2014 of which 60 percent were children, 35 percent have found permanent housing and are paying rent.
This is the handiwork of an organization started by churches that relies on a $360,000 budget of which all but $40,000 comes from individuals, churches, and businesses as well as private sector grants
The $320,000 the community invests in HOPE Shelters pays big dividends. If you can, help call Ballungay at (209) 824-0658.
makes library even
This time last year the homeless were routinely taking over the Manteca Library courtyard after dark thanks to the ability to hide out of street view.
Over time they caused well over $6,000 in damage and clean-up costs breaking lights, ripping out wiring to charge smartphones, using the area as an open toilet, and leaving behind trash including drug paraphernalia.
Save for library employees that encountered the homeless going to work before the doors open to the public, hardly anyone saw the aftermath of the nightly trashing of the courtyard. That’s because Manteca Police routinely shooed them out and Manteca Parks & Rec crews did a herculean job of cleaning the place up.
The $7,000 solution Manteca Police community resource officer Mike Kelly came up with and the City Council supported — wrought iron fencing with gates that allow it to be secured — eliminated the homeless problems in the courtyard.
It also had an unanticipated benefit.
The Friends of the Manteca library purchased patio tables with umbrellas and chairs to help turn it into an oasis for people to enjoy reading outdoors or just visiting with friends,
The Manteca Garden Club has also enhanced the landscaping within the courtyard.
Who knows? Maybe one day it can become a “trendy” hangout for Manteca teens and adults complete with a coffee wagon.
The bottom line is a proactive solution for a homeless problem has created an unintended benefit that the community should embrace as much as possible and run with it.
‘It’s a war zone’
but they’re not
about to give up
Two hours after the chance encounter in front of the HOPE Family Shelter, a spirited discussion was overhead in an East Yosemite Avenue convenience store about the homeless and the meth heads that are among them.
A woman related how at times she felt she was living in a “war zone” and shared how after one confrontation she ended up having a window broken.
But she made it clear — as did the woman she was talking with — they weren’t naïve enough to think that simply moving and conceding their community to problematic homeless was the answer. As they pointed out there are homeless everywhere as well as those who abuse drugs. And you don’t solve problems by running away from them.
And in case any elected leader — or wannabe elected leader is reading this — they agreed with Manteca City Councilman Richard Silverman’s assessment that Manteca clearly is in crisis mode when it comes to both the homeless and public safety.