Transients and others loitering in Library and Wilson parks in downtown Manteca has dropped off significantly in recent weeks to the point the two parks have been issue free for the last two days.
The shift has prompted a growing number of parents to return to Library Park to allow their children to frolic on playground equipment.
With many homeless individuals lounging in the park and using the restrooms, a number of parents have said they were uncomfortable in taking their youngsters to Library Park. The library as well has been dealing with a seemingly endless string of homeless that include addicts looking for a place to lie down and who often beg for money.
Community Resource Officers Mike Kelly and Randy Chiek welcomed a family into the park shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday where they enjoyed a fun morning without homeless individuals gathering on the grass and the gazebo.
Many homeless have been congregating on the gazebo using it as a meeting place both at dawn and at sunset as well. Others were bedding down there and in Wilson Park to the west of the Manteca Post Office on Maple Avenue.
Kelly credited the city’s Outreach Team for moving the homeless into programs that met their needs and even sometimes reunite them with relatives. They were known to move into the parking lot on the south side of Yosemite Avenue a block away behind the shuttered Bucktooth’s Billiards before looking for empty structures where they could bed down unnoticed for the night. They would also build fires to cook their meals in the parking lot area that posed threats to the downtown business structures as well as wearing dark clothes and riding bicycles at night darting across Yosemite creating a hazard to them and to the motoring public.
“It’s not what I have done, but rather what the team has done,” Kelly said. “The Community Resource Officers are only a small part of the team,” he added.
The team is made up of representatives from agencies and churches such as:
Hope Family Shelter Ministries
Inner City Action
Calvary Community Church
Hope Family Catholic Charities – taking care of veterans
Care Link Health Care Services
Manteca Unified School District
The team meets on the second Thursday of each month. “This month we placed two women into a rehab center to free them from their addiction,” Kelly noted.
To date, 180 people have been helped off the streets through the resources with some being pre-homeless individuals being put into programs or homes with families. Those who stick with the rehab programs are the reason many of the biggest offenders have disappeared from the streets.
Downtown merchant Brenda Franklin was guarded about the transition saying, “I hope it remains clean.”
Having the second community resource officer on the job has helped the situation as has other steps the city has taken in addition to working with the homeless that want help so that they can get it. The other efforts include establishing uniform park hours, posting parks with rules and then citing offenders, installing video surveillance cameras to give police footage to go after suspected drug dealers and other lawbreakers, as well as securing the courtyard of the library to eliminate overnight camping by the homeless.