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Homeless decries those creating problems at Library Park
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As the sun reached its hottest part of the day, “Lou” – a homeless man – searches for shade in Library Park with a host of other people all looking for a place to kill some time.

With his bike leaned up against a tree, “Lou” grabs a seat on the grass in an attempt to beat the heat and figure out what he’s going to do when the sun finally does go down and the Manteca Police Department cracks down on the policy that bans people from spending time in parks after dusk.

It’s just one more thing that he has to worry about in a town that doesn’t have a homeless shelter that caters to males and an aggressive policy to keep the homeless and vagrants in line.

“If I had a shelter to go to tonight, then that’s definitely where I’d be at,” he says. “But each day I’ve got to find a friend that will let me stay there, or find a secure spot where nobody is going to bother me.”

In a community where the City Council has instructed the police to prevent the homeless from setting up camp in town over night – a la San Francisco and Berkeley – single males like “Lou” often find themselves between a rock and a hard spot.

Like others that find themselves down and out, he says he mostly just wants to be left alone – not partaking in the rumbles that occasionally break out at Library Park, and frowning on those who give the less fortunate a bad name by engaging in such antics.

But unfortunately even after the park itself has gone through major renovations over the course of the last few years, it still attracts a crowd that most people would consider to be less than desirable – with the memories of hypodermic needles and beer cans scattered throughout still fresh in the minds of the people who once found it to be among the city’s best park.

While “Lou” says he doesn’t partake in any of that, it isn’t uncommon for him to find groups of people cracking open beer cans and drinking to excess. The result often ends in fights just feet away from where children come out of the library with books for school projects.

“I don’t agree with a lot of the things that go on here, but when you’re homeless you don’t have a lot of places to go,” he said. “I think that makes things even worse – especially when it gets dark and people are out and about looking for places to stay or trying to avoid the police.”

Dave Thompson of the HOPE Ministries shelter has made attempts in the past to get an all-male shelter constructed in town for that very reason, but has been met with opposition out of fear that it will attract even more problems.

Financial cutbacks from both the federal and state level haven’t made the quest any easier.

“Lou” says that he’ll continue to frequent the park – where he says he has friends that share his views – as long as it’s allowed.

“There aren’t a whole lot of other places to go in town,” he said. “Except for those who cause problems and give the rest of us a bad name, the majority of us keep to ourselves.”