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Homeless sleep in trash bins
Manteca moves to post no trespassing signs
The homeless in Manteca often sleep in trash bins placed in enclosures. - photo by HIME ROMERO

City of Manteca garbage crews on Tuesday had to call for assistance to clear three homeless out of a commercial trash bin and enclosure for a fast food restaurant where they had been camping, sleeping, and apparently scavenging food.

Homeless squatting in trash bin enclosures is becoming less of a problem for garbage collection crews. That’s due to an ongoing city effort to post no trespassing signs at hundreds of the enclosures throughout the city. That in turn allows trespassers — primarily the homeless — to be arrested for breaking the law.

Solid Waste Division Manager Rexie LeStrange said a proliferation of the homeless in the enclosures not only slow down crews collecting garbage as they have to roust them, get them cleared out and then clean up their debris but it also avoids tragedies.

Two years ago, a homeless individual sleeping in a dumpster behind Lincoln Center on West Yosemite Avenue was actually emptied into the back of a refuse truck. The alert truck driver hearing the noise called for police and the fire department that rescued the man.

“It’s a big safety concern,” LeStrange said.

The city is continuing testing the use of 100 locked blue Toters that are used for recyclables. The Mission Ridge Drive neighborhoods were used for the initial test. They have since been moved to routes elsewhere in Manteca.

“So far the results have been good,” LeStrange said.

She also noted when the homeless couldn’t get into the locked Toters along Mission Ridge Drive they sought out other neighborhoods that hadn’t been bothered before leaving spilled trash and toppled Toters in their wake.

The testing started along Mission Ridge Drive as that neighborhood was the hardest hit when it comes to homeless shifting through brown and blue Toters and creating a mess. In many cases they contaminate the remaining recyclables in the blue Toters that do not have California redemption value with garbage from the brown Toters making it impossible for the city to recycle the materials.

The homeless were also going into backyards to rifle through the blue Toters prior to collection day. 

If the results are effective at eliminating the homeless from dumping Toter contents on residential streets, contaminating recyclables forcing them to be buried at a landfill, and eliminates pilfering of redeemable recyclables the city will then start phasing in the lockable Toters throughout Manteca. Existing Toters would be either sold to other agencies or ground up and recycled.

The city has determined they can phase in the Toters gradually without impacting monthly garbage rates

The pilot program is being driven by a surge in complaints from residents who say the homeless scavenging through their Toters are littering streets with debris. Such complaints have shot up about 90 percent in the past year at about the same time the number of homeless people in Manteca increased.

The homeless go through Toters in a search for money in the form of containers for commodities such as soft drinks, energy drinks, water, and juices that have California redemption value of a nickel apiece.

If a Manteca household tossed out 20 such containers a week — the equivalent of three six packs of soda and two juice bottles — it represents $1 in redeemable value. Multiply that by Manteca’s households and it represents $24,000 a week of potential money for the homeless or $1,248,000 a year.

The new Toters will work only if residents remember to lock them before placing them at curbside.

They do not need to be unlocked, however, for city crews to dump them in refuse trucks.

The system works on gravity. When the Toter is lifted up and is turned around 180 degrees, the lid opens and the recyclables fallout.

It is extremely hard for one person to do when a Toter is loaded. They can turn it sideways and such but can’t get the lid to open.

City crews report more and more homeless are going through the brown garbage Toters as well in search of wayward recyclables and tossed food.