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Homeless: Will they drag down downtown?
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The vibrant business concerns in downtown want to take the central business district to the next level and create a welcoming atmosphere to get more people to spend time and shop.
But they are being bogged down by vagrants and vandals.
Vacant buildings are under siege as the homeless cut chain and locks off doors to turn storefronts into squatter quarters. A number of the homeless are also trashing interiors and breaking windows.
It’s become so bad that within hours of Manteca Police rousting five men and women from a former billiards hall and nightclub at 220 Yosemite Avenue and booked in the county jail, more homeless kicked in boarded up doors Thursday night to squat in the building.
On the second floor wall of a building in the 100 block of West Yosemite Avenue a large area that has graffiti that first surfaced nearly three weeks ago is intact despite the City of Manteca’s aggressive stance toward abating such vandalism.
And it’s not just downtown. The Manteca Veterans Center on nearby Moffat Boulevard this week had its flag stolen for a second time as well as two $700 security lights vandalized.
Business owners in the area noted that the homeless in the city build a nightly fire behind the old nightclub to heat their proverbial cans of beans. 
Some seven facades dot the 100 and 200 block of West Yosemite Avenue where those walking down the street peer into the once busy stores that are vanishing from the business scene once housed women’s and men’s clothiers, a vitamin shop within a coffee shop as well as a long time barber, boutique, and sandwich shop.
There were also two banks in the two block area. That said the resilience and drawing power of the overall downtown district is reflected in he fact there are seven financial institutions — all but four of the city’s banks — in the central district.
Tammy’s Baby Shoppe around the corner in the 100 block of North Main Street is about to create another vacancy after more than 20 years as business has dropped off despite being on one of Manteca’s top five streets for traffic volume.
Kelley Brothers Brewery & Brickyard Oven Restaurant that opened in 1999 in the former The El Rey Theater bringing downtown a major draw at the dawn of the 21st century has now been closed for seven years.
Still, retail is fairly strong downtown having changed the times.
ACE Hardware in the 100 block of East Yosemite closed shortly after Home Depot and Orchard Supply Hardware opened has housed American Furniture now for over a decade. It is one of four downtown furniture stores.
 Although all of the central district — just like other areas of Manteca including newer shopping districts — deal with homeless and vandalism issues, the hardest hit by far are the 100 and 200 blocks of West Yosemite Avenue.
Part of the problem according to a number of merchants and some city officials are second floor boarding houses plus the attraction for homeless to buildings such as the two-story Sycamore Arms boarding house that was gutted by fire more than a year ago.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email