The majority of the Manteca City Council — based on comments over the past month — appear to support the idea of a non-profit establishing a homeless resource center at the site of the former Qualex photo processing plant.
That’s where the Inner City Action Homeless Revival Tent is taking place through Saturday.
But how a potential resource center for the homeless comes about at the 555 Industrial Park Drive property is another question.
Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu believes the best course of action is for the city to buy the 55,000-square-foot building that has been shuttered since the late 1990s along with the parking lot when it is auctioned off with other Manteca Redevelopment Agency properties later this year. Then, after the city owns it, to lease it to a non-profit assisting the homeless.
Several council members including Gary Singh have a different take. They believe a non-profit itself securing funds from community sources would be better off buying the property directly.
“The city shouldn’t be in the business of providing direct services to the homeless,” Singh said.
Cantu makes a case that city ownership of the building that they then could lease for a homeless resource center would provide the community — through the city council — a large degree of control on what could unfold on the property.
The mayor noted state law precludes cities from prohibiting overnight shelters for the homeless in the vast majority of zoning districts including industrial where the Qualex property is located.
Cantu said by the city buying and then leasing the property they could stipulate that a drop-in style overnight shelter could not be operated at the location by whoever leases the site. The mayor said it could also allow a non-profit to direct more money at homeless services.
Cantu also said the city could retain use of part of the building for storing city records and other municipal uses.
“It’s a great place for a homeless resource center,” Cantu said. “It is in an industrial area and it’s away from other businesses.”
Singh doesn’t disagree with that observation. He simply believes the city should use taxpayer resources to make it happen.
Councilman Dave Breitenbucher has expressed reservations about what it would take to make the building functional. While use as a homeless resource center may not require the expensive earthquake retrofit state law required for first responders that prompted the city to abandon plans to convert the former Qualex building into a police station, he noted the roof is in need of major work and there are other structural issues to consider.
A local coalition of groups providing homeless services had advanced a plan to purchase the former Always Friends Preschool building on Davis Street next the Manteca DMV office for use as a homeless resource center.
That effort was sidetracked when the previous council nixed declaring that a housing emergency exists in Manteca. Declaring such an emergency was a prerequisite for Manteca applying for a share of $7.1 million set aside by the state for San Joaquin County as one-time funds to help provide homeless service.
Besides a resource center it would have had a trailer to provide medical services for the homeless, showers and a small housing component for homeless committed to getting off the street. It was not envisioned as a drop-in shelter.
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