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Shelter for 50 homeless opens as the first step toward navigation center, transitional housing
dorm red pillows
Council members Jose Nuno and Dave Breitenbucher stand next to three beds with red pillows reserved for use by Manteca Police so they can start getting homeless sleeping on sidewalks and in doorways off the streets.

Manteca, nine years ago, was staring down the losing end of a class action lawsuit on behalf of the homeless.

It was basically framed by litigants as Manteca having a de facto ban on the homeless’ right to exist.

The city had a policy of pressuring the homeless to keep them moving. Police issued reams of paper citations with no noticeable effect as homeless numbers kept growing.

Other cities in similar situations, dug in their heels.

Those that did, without exception, ended up losing millions in settlements and legal costs.

They also had court-imposed marching orders regarding how they dealt with homelessness. And the dictates rarely stemmed the growth on the ranks of those on the streets.

Manteca’s elected leaders in 2015 did not want to make that mistake.


First step: Deploying MPD

community resource officers

They negotiated a quick settlement and agreed to a number of things, including what ended up being key — the deployment of community resource police officers.

They were dedicated not just to addressing homeless quality of life crimes but working with the homeless to get them off the streets.

Manteca was out less than $60,000 in settlement costs including attorney fees.

Today, the city is on the cusp of uncharted waters for a city of 90,000, and perhaps a city of any size.

Manteca is a step closer to having a three-phase process all in one location.

It involves a navigation shelter to work with homeless 24/7 to get them off the streets, transition housing once they leave the navigation center, and then affordable housing to allow them to build independent lives to support themselves and become productive citizens.

And, after that, they should be in a position to stand on their proverbial “own two feet.”


Holistic approach to

addressing homelessness

That is the vision the city is working toward with 8 acres purchased at 682 South Main Street with the help of San Joaquin County and a $16 million state grant secured by State Senator Susan Tallamantes Eggman.

The senator shared Manteca’s holistic homeless approach with her colleagues in the legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom, got everyone on board, and got Manteca the grant.

On Tuesday, the interim step to implementing the holistic vision was marked with a ribbon cutting attended by more than 100 people,.

It took place in the parking lot of 555 Industrial Park Drive that has been transformed into the city’s homeless emergency center.

It marked the completion of two portable buildings as dorms with 25 beds each — one for women and one for men.

“We have to take care of our own,” Mayor Gary Singh stressed


Outreach effort

is every two weeks

The approach Manteca is taking is two-fold.

The city — along with more than dozen agencies and community faith based groups — are working to get people off the streets.

At the same time they are addressing — to the fullest extend allowed by law and the courts — problematic quality of life issues the homeless create for the community.

To get to that, people had to see the homeless beyond the image portrayed by those single males on the streets abusing substances and basically flipping off the world.

That realization hit home for Councilman Jose Nuno during one visit to the homeless emergency center where he came across a young family living in a tent where the woman was pregnant.

“We’ve made a 180 degree turn,” noted Councilman Mike Moro wit in terms of how the city and community approached the homeless issue.

And as Councilman Dave Breitenbucher pointed out, the homeless have been around since the dawn of civilization.

The most vulnerable to the elements living on the streets — older people and those with ailments — will be the first to transition into the dorms.

That effort, that involves screening, is being handled by the city’s contracted homeless services provider His Way Recovery — led by Al and Shari Deardoff.

Most of them having been camping in tents — elevated on wooden pallets to avoid getting soaked with rain water — within the secured fencing at 555 Industrial Park Drive.

The dorms will likely be filled within days.

And while the city is already working with local churches that has portable buildings that could be refurbished to double dorm space, three beds in each dorm will remain “vacant.”

They have red pillows that reserve them for use by Manteca Police.

It will allow police when they come across homeless individuals sleeping on the sidewalks or in doorways and such to take them there.

If the homeless refuse, they can then pressure them to move.

The police can do so, under court rulings, as long as there is an available bed the homeless can use.


Addressing problems

in city neighborhoods

Breitenbucher, through his church, takes a hands on approach in working to address homeless issues, is part of a every other Tuesday outreach effort.

The effort includes representatives of various agencies and community groups along with Manteca Police community resource officers Mike Kelly and Matt Smith.

They travel to various encampments. The idea is to build a relationship, earn trust, and find out what is barring them from getting off the streets.

Sometimes that effort is stepped up considerably by Smith and Kelly when the homeless are deteriorating the quality of community life.

Smith noted homeless were camping at Franciscan Park in the heart of a central Manteca neighborhood.

“People weren’t comfortable letting their kids use the park,” Smith said.

After the reach out effort failed, Smith started visiting the homeless encampment daily issuing citations each time.

Finally, the homeless asked what would it take to get Smith to stop bothering him.

The answer: Accept help to get sober and off the street.

As for the citations, they would go away if the homeless individual lived up to his end of the bargain.

Long story short, the homeless man became one of the growing number of success stories Manteca is slowly but surely accumulating.

He is now sober and off the street.

Kelly noted Manteca has come a long way since an initial effort that involved taking the homeless to a church where portable showers allowed them to clean up once a week.

At the emergency services center, there are showers daily, bathrooms, a kitchen that services three meals a day,  and a day room.

There is also portable dedicated to providing the services needed to get the homeless on their way to staying off the streets.

The site also has kennels for the homeless’ dogs.

The dorms have heating and air.

They also have privacy dividers plus containers for belonging.

In visiting other navigation centers, Breitenbucher said the city soon realized open dorms made most homeless uncomfortable.

So the dividers were added to enhance privacy and remove a barrier to getting the homeless involved in programs needed to get them off the streets.

All of the portables — the kitchen, dorms, and such — can be moved to the navigation site.

“No money will be lost,” City Manager Toni Lundgren said of the investment Manteca is using — mostly federal and state funding — to get an interim solution in place while work proceeds on the navigation center.

“They can be moved to the other site,” Lundgren added.

That “other site” is now in the design phase and is on target to break ground later this year.

It is that project — with facilities on site once the homeless are helped by various services to address issues — that Singh believes will prevent Manteca from repeating mistakes other cities have made.

“We want to prevent them from ending up back on the streets,” Singh said.

Singh lauded the citywide team effort of municipal staff to make the dorms and other amenities a reality.

He noted previous councils helped lay the ground  work and that the current council is united in its commitment to making the endeavor work.

Singh stressed the need for humanity in addressing the homeless issue while remaining firm with those that create serious problems for the community.

 “We’ve come a long way as a city,” Singh said.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email