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Some homeless push shopping carts, he has a mobile shelf
One homeless man keeps all of his belongings on a three-tier shelving unit that has been spotted on the sidewalks in the Spreckels Park area. - photo by James Burns

The homeless are survivors by nature, so they’re nothing if not crafty and resourceful. But is Manteca’s homeless problem out of control?

If you believe what you see, then the answer may be “yes.”

Squeezed out of Library Park by authorities, many of the lost and wayward souls that call these streets their home have abandoned all discretion. Tucked away in the shadows for so long, it seems some have taken a new tact.

In recent weeks, transients have turned Dribbles Car Wash on North Main Street into a popular hangout, much to the chagrin of nearby businesses; and they collect in mass on the benches at the corner of Yosemite and Sycamore avenues.

But there is one who has given new meaning to the phrase “living on the streets.”

He’s a tall, slender man with a white beard. Most days, he can be seen pacing the sidewalk near the new McDonald’s at the corner of East Yosemite and Commerce avenues, strumming a guitar.

He’s got other possessions, too – and how he organizes and stores them is an important lesson in value. The value one man places in what few material items he has left in this life, and the value one city places in a societal issue growing in presence.

The man travels not with a bloated bag of cans or broken children’s bike trailer but with an industrial-sized shelf. To be certain, it’s a shelving unit your grandfather would appreciate. It is maybe 6-feet wide by 5-feet tall, and everything has its place. 


Dirty blankets and pillows are tucked away neatly on the bottom rack. The guitar is kept in a case, which is locked into place by a bungee. Two barbecue grills occupy the top shelf, while the middle is home to two large plastic bins. A brown jacket also hangs from the side.

The shelving unit is fit for a garage or spare bedroom in any one of Manteca’s neighborhoods – not the walkways of a business corridor along a main thoroughfare.

Yet, there it is, the only semblance of “home” for the homeless. It’s been spotted in front of Taqueria La Estrella, and on Monday evening, beneath the shade of a tree behind the Shell gas station.

Manteca’s city leaders are keenly aware of the homeless issue and they’ve taken the first few steps toward resolution … whatever that may be.

The police chief has been given the authority to pursue new municipal law and a community summit has been put on the September docket. 

The prospects of building a men’s shelter or day-use facility have even been bandied about with a “Field of Dreams” caveat from Mayor and softball enthusiast Willie Weatherford – if you build it, they will come.

Until a resolution comes to fruition, the only certainty is this: The homeless will continue to show their resolve, finding new spaces to occupy. 

At least some, like Manteca’s old troubadour, will be a little more organized than others. 

• • •

High end tent city next door to high end apartments

The Manteca homeless are moving uptown.

A homeless encampment complete with tents has popped up in the Caltrans 120 Bypass right-of-way next to the sound wall separating the Paseo Villas were a one-room, 737-square-foot apartment rents for $1.130 to $1,230 a month.

The tent city is well “landscaped” and almost hidden completely from view by high dry grasses, shrubs and trees.

Access is apparently via Van Ryn Avenue.

It should be noted this isn’t the world’s safest location for a homeless encampment. The 120 Bypass is notorious for grass fires.