Dave Thompson has a simple philosophy when it comes to helping the homeless — it’s worth the effort.
“You can’t look at the negative side, you’ve got to look at the positive side,” Thompson said. “You’re never going to be 100 percent successful. If we don’t try nothing will happen. It may take 10 or 20 times of trying . . . Every time you get through to (one person) it’s worth the effort.”
Thompson knows a bit about how challenging it can be to deal
with the homeless. He worked 35 years in law enforcement — including 25 years
patrolling the streets as a Manteca Police officer — before retiring and
starting his second career serving as the executive director of HOPE Family
Shelters for 14 years.
“I’ve been on both sides of the fence,” Thompson noted.
Thompson, who wasn’t able to be presented with awards recognizing his service during HOPE Ministries’ 25th anniversary celebration in July was presented with a plaque on Thursday.
Thompson, who stepped down from the homeless shelter job in 2014, is currently a deacon at Northgate Community Church.
On Thompson’s watch HOPE Ministries added two shelters — the Raymus House on Union Road and transitional housing near Doctors Hospital of Manteca. The original shelter on Yosemite Avenue that opened as a hospital in 1919 before being converted to apartments also underwent a $1.2 million renovation using Manteca redevelopment agency funds.
Thompson noted that from the very start of HOPE Family Shelter’s founding more than 25 years ago by the Manteca Ministerial Association to today Manteca churches have consistently supported the shelter with monthly donations as well as adopting rooms.
He can think of numerous success stories where HOPE Family Shelters was not only able to give families as well as single moms with children temporary shelter but to educate them on how to better handle finances and dealing with issues that contributed to them being homeless to avoid returning to the streets.
Many never forget the impact their stay at HOPE Family Shelters had on their lives and will often donate what they can each year — even if it is only $10.
One story that stands out from his tenure as the HOPE executive director is that of Michelle Whittaker. She spent 7½ years on the streets of Manteca where she lived the life of a drug addict. She credits HOPE Family Shelters for giving her a second chance and the tools to turn her life around, get her children back, and turn into a productive citizen.
Today she works as an outreach case worker for the non-profit family shelter. She also works side-by-side with Manteca Police in trying to help the homeless break their cycle.
Thompson started his law enforcement career as part of the three-man City of Isleton Police Department in the heart of the Delta.
“I knew everybody in town,” Thompson said .
He recalled his first arrest was in response to a request by a Bay Area police department to arrest a murder suspect. He went to the man’s home without backup or benefit of a SWAT team and placed the subject under arrest.
After Isleton he went to work as a police officer in Truckee where got into the habit of using studded snow tires to get to work in the winter instead of using tire chains. Those studded snow tires came in handy the first year he worked in Manteca as significant snow fell in 1976.
“The roads were real slippery” Thompson recalled. “We (police officers on duty) ended up patrolling Manteca in my car.”
Thompson had no intention of working after retiring from the force. Larry Page, a friend who was the HOPE case worker at the time, urged him to apply for the opening as executive director. He thought it over for a week, contacted a board member and found the job was still open. He typed out his resume and three days later he was hired.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com