If you want to help the homeless Mike Kelly has some advice: Stop dropping off stuff at Library Park and other locales as you are only hindering efforts to assist the homeless and help them get off the street.
Instead you need to take what you would like to provide — food, clothing, blankets and such — to the massive Inner City Action tent that will serve as an emergency homeless warming center that will open Tuesday in the parking lot of the former Qualex building at 555 Industrial Park Drive.
Kelly — the Manteca Police community resource officer that has been on the frontline for the last 2½ years of the coordinated effort of the city and community-based organizations to work with the homeless with goal of getting them off the streets and being able to support themselves — noted the good intentions end up doing more damage.
“We need to get the homeless to go where there are services to help them,” Kelly said.
Besides providing a warming center the Inner City Action effort will provide meals, clean clothing, bathrooms, showers, access to health care, haircuts, as well as critical contacts with Social Security for ID cards and other government agencies that provide basic paperwork to make them employable.
Inner City Action also works to address the cause of why the homeless ended up on the street. They also work with the homeless to fight addictions, if needed, plus develop traits and skills needed to obtain jobs.
On Saturday Kelly said he talked to five Good Samaritans who showed up at Library Park at different times with food and clothing.
“It’s like with cats,” Kelly explained. “If you put out cat food to feed one stray cat pretty soon more stray cats will show up.
The analogy is not meant to be disrespectful.
Kelly said by drawing the homeless to Library Park for basic needs, they won’t be near where services are available to help them. And in doing so the homeless end up trying to find places to stay near Library Park in bushes, illegally in parks, huddled together outside the library courtyard gates or in alleys and even empty buildings in nearby residential areas.
When people drop off food at Library Park encounter Kelly, he tries to make them understand they are only making the problem worse.
Kelly it is akin to simply yanking off half of the weeds you see above the ground and doing nothing else. Not only is the weed still there, but it will grow back even bigger and spread.
“To get rid of weeds you have to get at the root,” Kelly said.
Kelly said if you want to end homelessness you have to do the same thing.
“You need to get at the root of why a person is homeless,” Kelly said.
That is exactly what Inner City Action will be doing with the combined emergency homeless warming center/resource center they are opening Tuesday. A similar six-week effort earlier this year that involved a resource center but no overnight shelter got 24 homeless people off the streets. They were sheltered, had their issues addressed, developed work skills, and were assisted by Inner City in securing jobs and getting them back and forth to worksites. They do that until they were able to support themselves.
Kelly noted the Hospice of San Joaquin Hope Chest thrift store in the 200 block of South Main Street has been working with MPD community resource officers for the last 2½ years to provide needed clothing to the homeless.
When an officer assigned to the homeless effort comes across an individual in need of clothing, they will note on cards provided by the Hope Chest what the person needs whether it is shoes, pants, socks, or a jacket. The homeless then go to the Hope Chest, show the card, and get the item they need at no cost.
Kelly asks that those that drop off items at the Hope Chest — or other thrift stores for that matter — only leave items when they are open. That is because people will steal the items or rummage through them after dumping items on the grounds.
Other places that provide help for the homeless or work to keep others from becoming homeless you can donate items or money to and make both be much more effective include the following:
*Love in Action on Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., 101 S. Fremont St., Manteca
*St. Vincent De Paul’s Society, weekday afternoons, 525 E. North St. , Manteca
*Hope Family Shelter (Must have children), 520 S. Union Road. Manteca, (209) 824-0658
*Haven of Peace (Women and children only), 7070 Harlan Road, French Camp, (209) 982-0396
Inner City — along with the Hope Family and Haven of Peace — can benefit from cash donations, toiletries, non-perishable food, and even things like toilet paper.
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