Manteca’s elected leaders want a proposed position that will cost $172,035 in terms of salary and benefits to not just tackle homeless concerns including homeless prevention but also to work on developing affordable housing.
That decision was on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Dave Breitenbucher dissenting after expressing doubt that such a position would make any more headway into reducing homeless on Manteca’s streets than the approach that now relies on two Manteca Police community officers. Breitenbucher preferred if additional manpower was committed to the homeless effort, that a third officer should be hired for that purpose.
Breitenbucher also questioned whether this was the proper time to “add more mid-management positions” given the economic damage the pandemic is causing.
City Manager Miranda Lutzow was instructed by council to devise an even more detailed plan on how the position would operate to better educate the public on the city’s efforts to address homeless concerns and issues.
At the same time, the council prefers having the position as a two-year trial. That would mean — based on council comments — if the person filling the position did not secure enough state and/or federal funds to cover their salary and compensation the position could be terminated at the end of two years. There was no discussion of whether if that person hired was able to make significant improvements in the local homeless situation if that would outweigh them not securing enough grant funds to cover their salary and benefits.
Councilman Jose Nuño pushed to have the position clearly focused both on homeless and affordable housing issues.
Nuño noted the pandemic is likely to create more homeless not just in Manteca but across the nation and indicated the city needed to try to have the resources in place to deal with it.
Nuño added that “it is much less costly” to prevent people from becoming homeless than to try and get the homeless off the street once they are on it.
The city, despite councils over the years saying affordable housing is a major municipal issue, has no staff committed to addressing the problem.
City Manager Miranda Lutzow emphasized the intent is to have the new position work in concert with the existing two community resource officers.
Lutzow noted the position is a “piece missing from the puzzle to make more headway to get people off the streets.”
Besides working in the trenches with the two community service officers, the person in the position would seek various grants that would supplant general fund money now being — or could be directed — to cover homeless related expenditures and allow that money to go to other city needs. The position would gather local statistics and causes of homeless needed for not just grant applications but to establish programs and oversee them that are designed to reduce the numbers of homeless and address quality of life issues they create for the community.
The position would be within the city manager’s office. The initial salary range would be $102,000 to $124,000 with the balance of the $172,000 going toward benefits and retirement costs.
As such they would also help shepherd through the planning process and the actual operation of what will arguably be the biggest ongoing municipal expense added in a number of years — the establishment of a homeless navigation center. Currently no one is working fulltime on that endeavor with the city council moving closer to make a decision whether to proceed with what could be an initial $1 million purchase simply to secure the site for a homeless navigation center.
Assistant City Manager Lisa Blackmon indicated that while no one expects to eliminate homelessness, the city’s goal — that mirrors what other cities with similar positions in place — is to reduce homeless by 50 percent within 10 years.
She noted because the city doesn’t have staff dedicated to collecting data needed — and applying for — grants that Stockton is commandeering virtually all of the state money earmarked for San Joaquin County.
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