Andrea McClure spends at least a couple days a week at Library Park.
At 51 years of age, McClure suffers from a lifelong battle with epilepsy and glaucoma – and has had to endure brutal treatment by members of her own family as well as other kids growing up for the red birth mark that runs the length of her face.
But with a relatively short walk to the park from where she lives, McClure meets up with friends that have taken her under their wing and showed her the kind of love and respect that she’s always been searching for.
And then there’s the troublemakers that McClure says ruins the experience of being at the park for everybody – just “a few bad apples” that makes the general public think that everybody who hangs out there is up to no good.
“The police have stepped up their efforts and are coming here for things like fights, gang stuff, and people drinking in the park – handing out a $350 ticket,” McClure said. “I don’t drink alcohol because I’m epileptic, but it seems like the bulk of the problems here are coming from alcoholics and drug addicts.”
And having people close by is something that’s very important for McClure, who has suffered more than 50 seizures in the last two months – a wicked combination of petit mal and grand mal seizures that at one time left her lying in the street behind the Manteca Post Office and near Center Street.
“I just want to see the police ride out the bad people so that those who don’t do anything bad can enjoy this beautiful park,” McClure said. “I’ve seen days where people will take the whole roll of toilet paper and intentionally clog the toilet and the sink, or soak it and throw it all over the walls in the bathroom – which already have written on – or take it out and throw it on the trees.
“I support the police and their efforts to clean up the park, and sometimes I’ll even call them if there’s something going on and they need to be here for it. I think that it’s time to clean up the park.”
The only catch is – it isn’t for him.
For the last several months, Agbayani and his brother have been working with the Place of Refuge Church and the Second Harvest Food Bank to deliver hot meals to those who need them – serving the majority of the meals to the homeless that frequent the park during the daytime.
And while Agbayani has heard all of the stories about fights and people drinking and causing general mayhem, he hasn’t ever come across a situation like that during his time there – instead seeing the aggressive tactics that the Manteca Police Department use to clear the park at night of homeless people.
“But here in Manteca you have two homeless shelters, and the only one that accepts men is for entire families,” Agbayani said. “We went down to Stockton to see what theirs was like, and saw that they only had 50 beds and had people literally fighting to make sure that they got one.
“We want to come up with a way to get these people into a place where they can spend the night. It says “to protect and serve” – not to protect and serve people who have homes. I know a lot of police officers and I respect what it is that they lay on the line each and every day. But something has to be done.”