Thanks to Inner City Action Manteca has done something on a fairly large scale that few other cities can claim — getting a substantial number of its homeless off the street.
But in order to enforce laws prohibiting the homeless from camping or sleeping almost anywhere they wish in Manteca on public property Mayor Ben Cantu noted the courts require the city to establish a 218-bed homeless drop-in shelter, provide a kennel-style operation for pets of the homeless, have a place where homeless can park their vehicles, and provide a place where they can store their stuff.
It was clear at Tuesday’s council meeting that the successful Inner City program where the faith-based non-profit works to get the homeless off the street, sober those up that need it, teach working skills, and then secure employment for them won’t work to meet the council’s directive to enforce city laws against the homeless. But Inner City Action’s program does address the other goal of the council’s two-prong homeless attack — helping the homeless get off the street.
The council issued several directives at the last week’s meeting.
*Staff will request proposals for other non-profits to operate a tent facility — potentially as a drop-in shelter — after March 31 in the parking lot of the Qualex building at 555 Industrial Park Drive. That’s because Inner City needs to use their tent to operate concessions at major events across the country that they man to fund their operations. Inner City Action won’t be operating a warming center using the tent at the Qualex building after March 31.
*They directed staff to set aside $40,000 to help offset some operating expenses Inner City Action will incur operating the warming center this month as well as to go toward helping another organization they hope to secure to run a temporary shelter at the location after March 31. The city already spent $25,000 to help purchase diesel fuel to power tent heaters and portable toilet rentals for the past several months.
*The city will continue to pursue the potential purchase of the Qualex property for a navigation center for the homeless as well as a drop-in homeless shelter with 218 beds.
The Qualex building is far from a slam dunk. The city has yet to identify funds to buy the building, bring it up to code, and remodel it as a shelter and navigation center which is the latest government term for a homeless resource center.
buying Qualex building
Even though the city purchased the building 13 years ago with $3.5 million in redevelopment agency funds for the purpose of using the 57,000-square-foot building to house the police department while sinking more than $1 million into design work and basic retrofitting, when the legislature pulled the plug on RDAs to help address the state budget crisis the city lost the building. State law required it to be auctioned off by the end of 2020 with proceeds among 10 local taxing agencies.
Councilman Dave Breitenbucher, in casting the only dissenting vote as to whether the city should continue to purse purchasing the Qualex building noted the city bought it once before and decided that they couldn’t afford to do the necessary work to make it useable.
Cantus disagreed with Breitenbucher’s assertion that the Qualex building wasn’t the answer. He said the council already decided that it was.
At one point the mayor shared a personal insight as to why he felt why a lot of things don’t get done in Manteca that he believed should be in place today by noting “everybody is willing to cut bait and run when it gets hard.”
Councilman Jose Nuño noted that a major reason why the council opted to go with the Qualex site is because it didn’t invoke a “not in my backyard” response from surrounding businesses and residents as other sites the city considered including the vacant Kmart building on Northgate Drive.
Cantu emphasized that the council was pursuing a course of action that would allow the issues the community has with the homeless to be addressed.
‘(We need to be able to) enforce the law so they’re not sitting in front of the library or sleeping in front of stores or, I hate to say it, doing their thing in somebody’s bushes,” Cantu said.
Acting City Manager Miranda Lutzow noted the city — in order to enforce quality of life laws the homeless violate based on court decisions — not only has to have 218 beds available in the community for the homeless but has to have control over them. That means a faith-based operation such as Inner City that is not geared to serve as a drop-in shelter but as a portal to help the homeless that want help to get off the streets would not work.
The need for 218 beds is based on the last point in time count of the homeless conducted in January of 2019.
Last appraisal for
Qualex was $1.5M
The city is asking the oversight board put in place after the RDA was disbanded for direction on the ability to purchase the building. That board meets March 19.
The city will then get an updated appraisal — the last one done in 2019 put the value of the Qualex property at $1.5 million — to determine the fair market value Manteca would be required to pay. At the same time the city is doing a more intense environmental and indoor air quality sample costing $5,000.
At that point if major issues are identified, staff will return to the council in May to discuss options that include remediation and rehab, repair, demolition or an alternate site. If the option is demolition it would include the options of going with portable buildings or constructing a new structure.
Between May and July the staff would work on going forward with building options as well as conducting public outreach to develop a strategic plan and input on what services to provide at the site.
The construction design would take place from August to October.
Then in November and December a request for proposals for a center operator will be crafted and a construction bid awarded.
The construction would take place in the first six months of 2021. During the same time a request for proposals for the navigation center operator will be released and awarded.
The center would tentatively open in 2021.
Inner City has enjoyed
success at warming center
The warming center operated by Inner City Action has helped 12 individuals obtain jobs, transitioned 6 people into programs aimed at getting them off the street permanently, and reconnected 13 individuals with families or a friend.
Of those that have dropped by the warming center for the night, only four have been on-Manteca residents.
Prior to the warming center opening in December, Inner City Action working with Manteca Police Department was able to get more than 200 people off the streets over a three year period.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com