The first opposition to what is shaping up as the city’s future homeless navigation center and shelter location has been voiced at a Manteca City Council meeting.
Susan Sasser, who resides in the Vintage Estates neighborhood accessed via Mission Ridge Drive, shared Tuesday issues she has experienced with the homeless in and around her neighborhood less than a half mile from the 8-acres on South Main Street the city is working toward purchasing for a holistic approach to homeless issues.
Those issues include the homeless in 2019 breaking into a nearby house and starting a fire that did extensive damage. The homebuyers arrived the next day to move in only to find much of the home gutted. She also has been accosted by a homeless man while she was on a shopping trip to Safeway in the Mission Ridge Shopping Center parking lot. After contacting police she found out later the homeless man was a convicted felon.
The two incidents along with a long list of indiscretions committed in and around her neighborhood by the homeless as well as what she feared would be a wrong image to create along a major thoroughfare near a freeway entrance to the city prompted Sasser to ask elected leaders to look for a different site.
Judging by comments the council made later in the meeting while forming a council ad hoc committee of two members to work on homeless issues., that isn’t likely to happen.
In appointing Councilman Dave Breitenbucher to the two-member homeless committee along with Mayor Ben Cantu, the council was clear on one point: Unless there was some overriding development they were going to stick with the site.
That point was hammered home when several council members expressed concern Breitenbucher might use being on the committee to undermine efforts to develop the site.
Breitenbucher in the past has consistently opposed the South Main Street location in favor of a city-owned site further north on Wetmore Street near the edge of downtown.
On Tuesday, he assured his colleagues that he would follow the council majority’s wish to stay with the site and would work to develop a navigation center as well as work to secure funding.
Breitenbucher brings to the committee the perspective of volunteering with Inner City Action, the non-profit the city is currently contracting with to work with the homeless at an emergency tent shelter on Industrial Park Drive. Cantu, for his part, has had an adult daughter that has been homeless and is well aware of the challenges in dealing with such individuals.
The two-member ad-hoc committee is expected to play a key role in keeping the homeless navigation center project moving forward and not getting bogged down at city hall. They also will work with staff on a myriad of homeless issues the city is dealing with including quality of life issues they create for other Manteca residents.
The committee is not designed to act independently of the council — it legally can’t under California. Instead it is designed to keep the council even more in the loop as well as work with the general community in hearing — and potentially addressing — issues they may have with the homeless including with development of the 8 acre site immediately north of B.R. Funsten Flooring.
The city last week was awarded $2 million by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors in the form of pass through state dollars after Councilman Gary Singh, working with the cities of Tracy and Lodi, made the case to direct funds elsewhere besides Stockton to address homeless concerns.
The South Main site is appraised at $1.6 million and has already passed environment clearance.
Singh said he will work with State Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman in an effort to convince the California Legislature and ultimately Gov. Gavin Newsom to deed the site to the city at no cost so all of the $2 million could go toward putting in place infrastructure and facilities such as a navigation center, homeless shelter and compact “little houses” to serve as transitional housing. Long range plans call for developing affordable housing similar to the Juniper Apartments on Atherton Drive on part of the 8 acres.
The site — just like the former Qualex site at 555 Industrial Park Drive where the temporary homeless shelter tent is now located — are under state control given the Manteca Redevelopment Agency that acquired them was dissolved in 2010 along with other RDAs across the state.
The properties must be auctioned off and the proceeds split between 11 local agencies based on their percentage of property taxes that are collected. Government agencies such as the City of Manteca have the option, however, of buying the property at its market price before they go to auction.
“The reality is we’ve got to get beds here (in Manteca) and on a countywide basis (in order) to enforce the laws we have,” Councilman Charlie Halford said of the 9th District court ruling cities in California and other western states must follow.
The court ruling basically prevents cities from effectively enforcing most anti-camping laws and such unless there are available beds at a shelter and a homeless person refuses to access them.
Halford noted the homeless weren’t just a Manteca issue but is also an issue throughout San Joaquin County, California, and the United States.
He added it has gotten progressively worse over the past 15 years.
Halford also said as much as he has empathy for Sasser’s concerns, the city needed to address homeless issues more effectively which would require a navigation center and shelter no one wants near their home or commercial concern.
The city has spent more than three years trying to find a permanent location for a navigation center.
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