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They bring boats to shore then walk thru yards, thefts on upswing
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An older disheveled houseboat is moored in a slight cove off the San Joaquin River . - photo by GLENN KAHL/ Bulletin

Homeless who have commandeered dilapidated boats are establishing a beachhead under cloak of darkness in the rural neighborhoods lining sloughs off the San Joaquin River beyond the western end of Woodward Avenue.

The rural Manteca residents say:

*The homeless literally walk through their yards after bring boats to shore to reach the road.

*A number of those homeless trespassers who claim they have the right to walk into yards are believed to be responsible for a significant rise of thefts from yards.

*Mail theft has skyrocketed with one resident reporting see a homeless boater discard mail that he didn’t want to keep as he walked along the road.

*The theft of boat motors has soared.

Rural residents along Williamson Road west of Oakwood Lake Shores and Turtle Beach Resort say they have been invaded by homeless boaters who bring their boats up to their riverside homes at night. They say when the sun rises they discover their mail and boat motors missing.

The Wetherbee Lake  area — that was under water for more than two months when the levees failed in 1997 —  is a small  community of homes where everybody has known their neighbors for years. Barefoot newcomers are quickly noticed.  Neighborhood residents have taken to putting locks on their mail boxes and placing chains and padlocks on their boat motors to keep them from disappearing along with the gas cans they once left unattended near their docked boats.

At least five boats that have been used as living quarters on the river, presumably by the homeless, have sunk in the nearby Manteca Slough and Hobo Slough.

“One boat came up my bank and pretty soon there were four boats following with one boater telling me they had rights, but I stood up against their threats,” one of several residents interviewed that did not want their names used due to concern of retribution from the homeless. 

Another boat that disappeared from the Mossdale area showed up near Turtle Beach to the west where it was later found under water.

San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputies have told the complaining residents the homeless have rights and there isn’t much they could do about it. The men of the community countered that 90 percent of the boats have had their serial numbers removed and don’t have CF numbers. They were reportedly told if deputies were to confiscate the boats there would be no way for the boaters to move. 

“They are also carving out stairs on the beaches,” the resident added, “and sinking boats in the waterway.”

One suspected homeless boater challenged a homeowner on his own property by handing him a paper plate with a scrawled printed petition telling of his rights after being found on the man’s property after midnight:

“I come by boat.  I have my water rights.  I’m not bothering you.  I’m quite. (sic) I don’t bother anything.  I go straight to the road and walk away from your property.  Like I said, I don’t bother you so why would you go out of your way to bother me.  My name is Mark and my phone number is 209-XXX-XXXX.  (Water Rights for Boaters).” But the property owner said he didn’t feel there were any such rights that provided for continual trespassing across his property.  

Residents have been complaining during the last year about mail stolen from their mail boxes with at least one first-hand account by a man out walking his dog in the evening.  

“One of the homeless strangers was walking ahead of me and going through a stack of mail in his hands and discarding what he didn’t want to the ground over his shoulder,” the man said.

There has also been concern about possible drug dealing in the community because of numerous men continually visiting certain homes and quickly leaving the area.  

Another homeless has been seen in the community countless times after he recently rolled his car in a homeowner’s yard as police were chasing him from Manteca.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email