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Mantecans4Change seek to ban low-barrier navigation centers throughout Manteca
homeless mission
A homeless individual set up a makeshift shelter earlier this year in the parking lot at the Mission Ridge Shopping Center.

Mantecans4Change want the fate of a proposed homeless navigation center to be determined at the ballot box.

The group formed initially to seek the recall of Mayor Ben Cantu is now taking aim at what is arguably the top issue in Manteca — how the city is responding to the homeless crisis.

They sent emails to Cantu and all council members except Jose Nuno on Friday asking them to sign a letter of intent for a ballot imitative to allow voters to decide whether “low-barrier navigation centers” for the homeless should be allowed in Manteca.

Mantecans4Change, in their email, asked to be informed by Monday at 5 p.m. via email whether they support the proposal to place such an initiative on the ballot. 

If they agree to do so, they indicated “We will then approach you for your signature at the City Council meeting on Tuesday.”

The email states, “It is our hope that Mayor Cantu, Vice Mayor Halford, Councilman Singh, Councilman Breitenbucher sign this notice of intent.  In doing so, you are supporting your constituents by saying you will let the citizens decide what is best for its community.”

The group essentially is not asking for individual council members to come out against the navigation center within the city limits but whether they are willing to let the voters weigh in on the issue.

The petition, if circulated, would qualify for the ballot a measure to amend the Manteca Municipal Code to prohibit a low barrier navigation center from operating within the city limits.

The wording the group wants to see added to the municipal code reads as follows:

(a)    Low Barrier Navigation Centers shall not be permitted to operate in any location within the City of Manteca, including but not limited to areas zoned for mixed use and nonresidential zones permitting multifamily uses.

(b)   Additionally, no shelter designed to house any person, whether designated a Low Barrier Navigation Center or not, shall be permitted to operate within the City of Manteca without first imposing barriers to entry including mandatory sobriety (on-site breathalyzers and drug screens); strict curfews; mandatory work program or career enhancement participation classes and criminal background checks.

(c)    Low Barrier Navigation Centers shall mean the same as defined under California Government Code Section 65660 (a).  

Whether low barrier navigation centers can be banned from opening in cities isn’t clear given how state law has removed a number of barriers that have been used in the past to prevent them from opening in cities.

The intent for circulation notice takes that into account noting it is their intent if one section is invalidated by a court the other sections would remain intact.

Should the group go ahead and circulate the petition, they will need to pass several legal hurdles to get it on the ballot for the Nov. 8 election.

They would have to get the wording approved, publish a legal notice and then collect a set percentage of signatures from registered voters and have them verified to meet a mid-August deadline.

They also could try and force a special election.

That said, if there is such a petition circulating as races for the seats for two council members and the mayor gets underway in the coming weeks, it could make the issue of the navigation center and related homeless issues the top issue in the campaign.

Such a strategy is hinted at in the fact Nuno was not included on the email. Nuno, who represents District 1, is not seeking re-election.

Breitenbucher — who is not opposed to a navigation center but is against the South Main Street site — is seeking a second term in the District 3 council race.

Cantu is seeking re-election as mayor while Councilman Gary Singh is gearing up to challenge him.

Both have supported the concept of a navigation center and do so at the South Main Street site.

The group wants to get them on record, however, as to whether they are willing to let voters weigh in on whether the homeless navigation center should move forward.

The email also states, “Mantecans4Change has surveyed its members and the community, and it is clear the majority of the citizens do not want a Low-Barrier Navigation Center operating in the City of Manteca.  The reasons for this vary and range from expense to public safety to strain on our local resources.”


Homeless shelter eating

into city’s general fund

The timing arguably couldn’t have come at a worst time in terms of political impact.

The City Council on Tuesday when they meet at 7 p.m. is being asked to enter into a new 12-month agreement with Inner City Action to continue operating the current emergency shelter in the tent at 555 Industrial Park Drive through June 30, 2022.

Also, on Tuesday the council is being asked to approve a $68.5 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Staff has noted numerous things not included in the budget — such as additional staffing to maintain service levels to keep up with growth and needs such as road repairs — will need to be addressed by some form of new tax given the city doesn’t have sufficient funds to tackle them.

This time around the $777,618 contract will need to utilize general fund revenue to the tune of $663,862 to continue to operate the emergency center. The remaining $113,756 will come from two federal pass through block grants aimed at serve low-income residents.

If the city is unable to do so, the nearly $800,000 annual expense will need to continue to come form the general fund in future years.

Staff has indicated they will keep looking for grant opportunities to supplant the general fund monies.

Since December 2019 the city has spent $953,361 on the emergency shelter. Of that $307,872 came from the general fund. The rest was from pass through funds or COVID related grants.

The council also needs to find a way to pay to build a navigation center providing homeless with shelter and resources to get off the street as well as operate the facility once it is opened.

The cost to get such a facility up and running after the land is purchased starts at $5 million and goes up depending upon its size.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email