Congressman Josh Harder stood in the middle of Carnegie Court Wednesday morning surrounded by City of Manteca officials as two homeless individuals were hunkered down in nearby cars.
They were showing Harder preliminary plans for a holistic approach to Manteca’s growing homeless problems that are predicated on the city acquiring 8.4 acres.
Deputy City Manager Toni Lundgren— who is taking the lead in coordinating the city’s overall strategies to address homeless issues — explained to the congressman the preliminary schematic for the site.
It includes space for a possible Sprung Structure to serve as a navigation center to provide services to help homeless to be able to access services to help them get off the streets as well as possible temporary shelter. There is an area for possible transitional housing — so called 80-square-foot tiny homes — and supporting facilities. Ultimately there would be a component of affordable housing the city hopes to develop along South Main Street working with a developer or non-profit that would buffer the homeless functions.
“This would be a gold standard in dealing with the homeless in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties,” Harder noted of the ambitious proposal.
Harder pointed out aggressive and holistic approaches are needed to combat homeless that is growing as a problem in many California cities.
The price tag of the overall vision is daunting. Lundgren noted the ballpark figure consultants have given for all phases of the city’s vision will likely cost $12 million plus. The most expensive component would be the affordable housing that would have partially subsidized rents for those with jobs who can’t afford market price housing in Manteca.
Councilman Gary Singh explained that the city is working on building partnerships aimed at helping fund much of the endeavor.
The most pressing issue is securing the site.
There are two reasons that is the case.
*There is a deadline rapidly approaching that the state requires the former redevelopment agency property to be sold.
*The city has been repeatedly told on grants they have applied for and essentially “struck out” when it comes to obtaining funds for homeless facilities that it will be a whole new ball game when they have an actual site secured and preliminary plans drafted.
One potential source of funds for the property purchase is the City of Manteca’s $15 million share of the $1.9 trillion federal COVID relief package.
Acting City Manager Lisa Blackmon noted the finance department is in the process of determining exactly how much revenue the city lost due to COVID-19 lockdowns when it came to things such as sales and room taxes as well as expenses they incurred dealing with the health emergency.
If there are funds left over Blackmon said funding the land purchase that has been appraised at $1.58 million would be one of the non-re-occurring expenses staff would recommend the federal funds be spent on.
Harder said based on what other cities in the district have reported it is unlikely the city lost as much money from COVID-19 lockdowns as they are getting from the federal government.
“You definitely don’t wasn’t to use it to hire 50 workers because then how are you going to pay them going forward,” Harder noted. “It makes sense to spend it on one-time capital expenses.”
Singh used the opportunity to pitch the possibility the city may be looking for Harder’s help in securing a budget earmark or grants to partially fund part of the homeless/affordable housing endeavor.
Homeless used stimulus
checks to buy vehicles,
Manteca Unified setting
up GED program at center
Prior to visiting the site where the city is seeking to develop its holistic approach to addressing homeless issues, Harder toured the warming center two blocks away in the parking lot at 555 Industrial Park Drive that was the former home for Qualex.
The warming center run by the Turlock Gospel Mission since the first of December operates in a large tent. The original contract for the warming center was supposed to expire March 31.
The City Council in March authorized spending $180,000 in the first of what could be a series of six month contracts.
City staff indicated there was a need to make sure the shelter stayed in place after March 31 when the original warming center contract with Turlock Gospel Mission ended. That’s because the loss of the shelter and accompanying services plus the trust being built with the homeless would be interrupted forcing the city to start again when they activate an emergency cooling center this summer or re-institute the warming center next winter.
The contract extension will allow Turlock Gospel Mission to offer many of the services a more permanent navigation center designed such would offer.
An example of what the contract extension is allowing to happen was a partnership the Turlock Gospel Mission has just forged with Manteca Unified to offer a GED — general equivalency diploma — program to those homeless that do not have a high school diploma. The lack of a high school diploma or a GED is a significant roadblock to landing many jobs for entry level workers.
The GED program was announced at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Council members were also told there were homeless in Manteca that qualified for stimulus relief checks based on criteria ranging from being employed — although not at a rate high enough to afford housing — to being Social Security or unemployment recipients had purchased vehicles they were also sleeping in.
The parking lot at the warming center often has more than two dozen vehicles such as RVs and such that the homeless own that they’d prefer to stay the night in as opposed to the common sleep area within the shelter. Other homeless that have cars will park them there when they are sleeping in beds or accessing services.
Rudy Valencia, who oversees the warming center, noted the homeless that opt to stay in their RVs, campers, or vehicles for the night in the fenced in parking lot like the security it affords them. They can also access water, electricity, toilets, and other services.
Harder, after inquiring whether Manteca’s homeless numbers have increased, noted Turlock officials have seen more than a doubling in the ranks of the homeless during the past year.
The last point in time count conducted in Manteca in January of 2019 showed the city had 218 homeless individuals. The count was not conducted this winter due to the pandemic.
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