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How many homeless in Manteca?
Count taking place to tally up hard core homeless
A homeless man is shown sleeping in the burned out shell of a store in downtown Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO

They push shopping carts filled with all of their worldly possessions down the street.

Sometimes you can find them camping behind the four pseudo sugar silos at Spreckels Historical Plaza on Spreckels Avenue. They hop from vacant houses to abandoned buildings.

They are the city’s most invisible residents - the homeless who call Manteca home.

And while cities up and down the valley have homeless shelters that are handing out extra warm clothes to protect the least fortunate against the below-freezing overnight temperatures expected through at least Tuesday, there is no such option in Manteca.

An idea on just how many homeless reside in Manteca will be determined on Thursday, Jan. 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Library Park. That’s when Manteca city officials along with community volunteers are gearing up for the national point-in-time homeless count.

There is $3.5 million in federal funds at stake for San Joaquin County to assist the homeless that the count is crucial to preserving. Similar counts will take place at the Lodi Armory, Tracy Community Center, and St. Mary’s Interfaith Center in Stockton.

Dave Thompson said the last such census pegged the homeless count in Manteca at just over 20 people. The number reflects those who are hardcore homeless. They are essentially living on the streets throughout the year.

“They all call Manteca home,” Thompson, who serves as executive director of the HOPE Family Shelter said. “Either they grew up here or they were living here before they became homeless.”

Almost all are men and few are young. Thompson said that’s because young males that become homeless are typically just a year or so out of high school so they are able to access a network of friends who will allow them to sleep on a coach or such for a few nights. Typically unless they have a severe issue such as drug addiction they eventually get away from the streets.

That isn’t the case with the hardcore homeless who make the streets their homes.

Thompson said HOPE Ministries would like to do something to address the hardcore homeless problem but is barely able to keep current shelters going. Almost 80 percent of the roughly $120,000 they need a year to run shelters come from donations given by individuals, businesses, churches and organizations.

In the past when the non-profit explored the possibility of opening a singles shelter it was met with stiff opposition from residents in neighborhoods where potential locations were considered.

The closest single shelters for the homeless are in Stockton, Lodi, Modesto, and Turlock.

HOPE Family Shelter has helped more than 2,000 homeless people get back on their feet since they first opened their doors 20 years ago. They help families and mothers with children. They do not accommodate single men or women or mothers who have teen-age boys. The prohibition of mothers with teen boys has to do with the fact HOPE’s mother and children shelter on Union Road lacks adequate bathroom facilities to serve both genders.

One of HOPE’s three facilities is a transitional shelter where families can stay for up to two years. The other two have a two-month maximum stay. In about 70 percent of the cases, that is enough time for the homeless parents to save enough for a deposit and first month’s rent plus learn better money management. They typically became homeless due to the inability to pay bills and manage money on when income is reduced.

The majority of those who pass through the shelters reside in either Ripon or the Manteca Unified school District that includes Manteca, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch. Others from outside communities are often helped as well. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who move in must pass a substance abuse test and adhere to rules.  Thompson typically gets four to six calls a day from people looking for a place to stay

Thompson has noted many of the homeless families sleep on couches and floors in friends’ houses for a few days and move on before they get the tenant in trouble. Some sleep in garages while others stay in a motel for a few days and then go back out on the street to live out of vehicles until they get enough money to get a motel room. Still others will camp at nearby parks and even along the river.

Manteca Unified School District has indicated that 700 of its 23,000 students at any given time can be classified as homeless.

For more information call Thompson at 824-6058.