The homeless are making themselves right at home in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
City officials from Modesto to Stockton as well as Caltrans report an upswing in homeless encampments. It reflects similar trends in the Bay Area as well.
On Wednesday morning in Manteca a homeless man who joined forces with three of his peers to file a federal suit alleging the City of Manteca is violating their civil rights, was blocking part of the sidewalk with his multi-level cart in the 1200 block of East Yosemite where he was using propane and a skillet to prepare his breakfast just yards away from the McDonald’s drive-thru lane.
Across town over the sound wall from the costliest apartments in Manteca at Paseo Villas where a 747-square-foot one-bedroom unit rents for $1,147 a month, a homeless encampment has popped up in the right-of-way along the 120 Bypass just days after other encampments had been cleared out by Caltrans.
Issues with homeless dumpster diving or seeking trash enclosures for shelter at night is prompting Manteca to spend $39,000 to place a canopy over such an enclosure at the Manteca Transit Center while leaving an 8-inch gap between the roof and wall for ventilation.
The City Council at today’s mid-year budget workshop, at Mayor Steve DeBrum’s request, will discuss security at the transit station. The canopy covered parking areas at the Moffat Boulevard facility provides daytime parking for the homeless that live in their vehicles.
It’s been 18 months since the city — led by Police Chief Nick Obligacion — has been trying to coordinate efforts to help the homeless that want to get off the street as well as addressing those that are homeless that break laws.
To date, the chief said six homeless have either gotten off the street for good or are going through programs to help them do so.
He noted his officers routinely make homeless aware of options that are available to them. The chief said several of those getting off the street are homeless that patrol officers figured never would try to do so.
The small number of homeless seeking help to turn their lives around doesn’t discourage Obligacion.
“It’s a start,” the police said, noting it is a struggle you win one person at a time.
Police — as well as Caltrans — are keeping pressure on illegal homeless encampments. Both agencies give homeless advance notice that they will be returning to clear out encampments.
Caltrans is struggling to keep on top of the encampments that pop up along the 120 Bypass along the freeway shoulder as well as at interchanges.
“It’s not just a problem in Manteca,” Obligacion said. “Other jurisdictions around us are seeing an increase of homeless.”
Some Manteca residents have slammed the city’s effort as being ineffective.
The chief, though, believes without the effort to help the homeless that want help and to deal with those that cause problems, the homeless issues would be much larger in Manteca.
He also repeatedly emphasizes that being homeless per se is not a crime and that the homeless — just like everyone else — have rights. The effort started 18 months ago was designed to walk the tight rope to make sure the homeless that aren’t breaking the spirit of the law don’t have their rights trampled upon while at the same time dealing with those that break the law.
Part of the 18-month effort has been the opening of the first resource center ever in Manteca that is designed to help homeless get off the street.
The Manteca Gospel Resources Center is located in across from the Manteca Bulletin in the building that now houses the Prayer Valley Church as well as the FUN Club on the southeast corner of East Yosemite and Fremont avenues.
The center is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Homeless are able to have one-on-one consultations with a resource specialist to guide them to the appropriate agencies for help with:
drug and alcohol counseling.
assistance with SSI Disability General Assistance.
temporary and permanent housing.
There also are coffee and snacks, pastoral counseling, medical referrals, and care packages.
While there are homes shelters for families and mothers with children as well as food pantries and other services aimed at helping the homeless and the needy, this is the first time Manteca has ever had a resource center aimed at trying to help single homeless adults.
A countywide homeless survey of unsheltered individuals in Manteca conducted in January 2015 counted 88 adults and two children who were homeless. Many homeless advocates contend the figure is higher.
The count does not include the homeless that are able to bounce from motels to the couches of friends or even their garages, in a bid to stay off the streets