Legislation critical to Manteca’s efforts to step up its efforts to get homeless off the streets and into a more productive lifestyle cleared its first hurdle in Sacramento on Wednesday.
The Assembly Local Government Committee unanimously approved Assemblyman Heath Flora’s bill that would allow the possibility of the former 57,000-square-foot Qualex building to be sold to Inner City Action for a $1 for the specific purpose of being transformed into a homeless resource center instead of being forced to be auctioned off under state law. Santa Monica Democrat Richard Bloom signed onto the Ripon Republican’s AB 1732 bill as a cosponsor.
Lawmakers praised the Manteca proposal as taking a proactive and innovative approach to addressing homeless issues.
The bill now goes to the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.
On Tuesday, the Manteca effort ran into a challenge when the South San Joaquin Irrigation District board — one of 10 other entities that need to agree to forgo receipts they would receive if the property was auctioned off — did not embrace or reject the request by the City to Manteca.
The SSJID board, which was down to four members due to an absence, was not as concerned about forgoing the unexpected windfall from the property auction as they were about philosophical issues on about how to go about addressing the homeless problem. At one point a motion was made to have staff research the matter further and bring it back to a future meeting but that failed after the board split 2-2.
It was pointed out the SSJID’s bailiwick is water and electricity generation and not dealing with homeless issues.
City Manager Tim Ogden noted the city was proceeding with presentations regarding the city’s request that are before other taxing agencies in the coming weeks including two on Tuesday. That’s when the Manteca Unified School District board — that is entitled to 50.05 percent of any auction proceeds — will consider the request.
Ogden said there is discussion of pursuing an amendment of AB 1732 requiring only a majority of the taxing agencies to approve of the proposal.
Councilman Gary Singh who testified before the committee Wednesday along with Assemblyman Flora said the Manteca Unified is struggling with the impact of homeless families and that the Inner City Action program would dovetail into helping the schools with their homeless issues.
One of every 33 Manteca Unified students — as defined by city law — is homeless.
Some of those students may live in cars a night or two then bounce between weekly motels rooms when their parents can afford them. A number are in homeless shelters such as those operated by HOPE Ministries. Others are children of migrant farm workers.
The largest segment is part of families sharing housing of other persons due to economic hardship. They may also be sheltered in motels and camping grounds.
Under the definition of homeless incorporated in the 1987 federal McKinney Vento Act that mandates school districts identify and provide certain services to homeless students, Manteca Unified has 711 homeless students out of an overall enrollment approaching 24,000.
Singh noted Inner City Action runs a holistic program aimed at not just getting the homeless off the streets but equipping them with coping and work skills that allow them to become productive citizens.
Singh also pointed out the district, and other agencies, will still be receiving money that they weren’t expecting from the forced sale of other former Manteca redevelopment agency properties even if the Qualex property doesn’t go to auction. Included is a highly coveted parcel on Daniels Street and Airport Way that alone — if it ended up selling for $3 million — would bring the school district $1.5 million in funds that it hadn’t expected to receive.
Flora’s field representative Jason Laughlin confirmed Wednesday that the assemblyman is working on an amendment that assures if the Qualex property does go to Inner City Action and that in the future it is no longer used as a homeless resource center that it would then be auctioned off and the sale proceeds split among the 11 taxing entities.
Councilwoman Debby Moorhead had high praise for Flora crediting his quick response and efforts for allowing the city to pursue the homeless resource center concept by using the Qualex site that has universal agreement among elected leaders as being the best location in Manteca for such an endeavor. The council also likes the fact it would be a regimented program and would not be a drop in homeless shelter.
“We need to do what we can to make it work,” Moorhead said, adding if successful it would help the community as well as the homeless.
Singh described the Inner City program “as a proactive approach” that addresses and corrects issues causing homeless and not enabling the homeless.
In another wrinkle, city officials confirmed that a second non-profit has expressed interest in using the Qualex building to help Manteca address homeless issues.
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