For the past week a homeless man has used a bit of ingenuity along with pilfered pallets, plantation shutters apparently retrieved from dumpsters and other items to wall off an area on a six-foot wide ledge to create shelter beneath the westbound bridge carrying 120 Bypass over Moffat Boulevard.
He’s also furnished it with a number of items including a chair.
On Wednesday — while wearing a face mask — he was hammering away on improving his domicile.
There are a couple of drawbacks. There’s the issue of noise from above especially when trucks pass over the bridge. He can’t stand up completely without hitting his head. There are 40 or so trains passing by in a given day. The access slope is light years from being American with Disabilities Act complaint.
And perhaps the biggest drawback of all — Caltrans crews are going to arrive in the coming weeks to take it all down.
On Tuesday, Manteca Councilman Gary Singh shared that Caltrans informed the San Joaquin Council of Governments they have resumed clearing out illegal homeless encampments with the state right-of-way.
Work is already underway clearing out such encampments in Tracy and Stockton.
Manteca officials get hammered by residents about the encampments but because they are in the state right-of-way they have no jurisdiction.
Caltrans periodic effort to abate the makeshift homeless shelters was halted during the early days of the pandemic with the state ordering that homeless encampments not be disturbed to avoid movements with in a community to help reduce the possible spread of COVID-19.
In most cases, Caltrans has to follow the same rules cities do based on court decisions. That means they have to post illegal encampments and give occupants a set amount of days to move their belongings out before crews come in and remove what is left.
What typically will happen is once Caltrans clears out the homeless encampments, the homeless will scatter to find new places to squat elsewhere in Manteca. That in turn will create more issues for Manteca Police and property owners to deal with.
There are easily several dozen homeless along the 120 Bypass. Most are between Main Street and the Highway 99 interchange with the bulk on the south side. That is where sound walls and the elevated freeway creates a gully. There is a well pounded path that leads behind the Paseo Villas, Tesoro, and Juniper apartments as well as the Manteca Commerce Center.
After homeless started driving vehicles into the area last year, Caltrans blocked access west of Van Ryn Avenue with K-rail and replaced fencing that kept getting cut. That drastically reduced the number of homeless encampments behind Paseo Villas.
Caltrans has resorted to other measures aimed at reducing the proliferation of homeless encampments. That included several years ago removing shrubbery that masked a large encampment of over a dozen homeless on the northwest corner of the Austin Road and Highway 99 interchange. In that instance, more than a dozen bicycles along with other items were taken out of the area before the shrubs were removed.
Ironically the effort more than decade ago to plant suburbs and trees along the 120 Bypass has provided cover for the homeless to encamp at various interchanges such as main Street and Airport Way.
Homeless encampments pose a large safety issues. There are brush fires that burn through the area as well as periodically cars leaving the freeway during an accident and going over the edge and into the gully. In some cities such as Stockton it wasn’t unusual to see homeless walking across the freeway near their encampments.
Is illegal for the city — or any other jurisdiction — to make it illegal to sleep in general on public property where access isn’t restricted to anyone in the general public or it impedes safe passage on areas such as sidewalks as spelled out in ADA rules. Manteca complies with court rulings by allowing the sitting or lying in such areas for sleeping by anyone — the wide sidewalk in front of the Manteca Library on Center Street is a prime example — daily between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Manteca has the ability to enforce anti-camping laws on private property. They have resumed doing the same for public property after the local homeless population was tested and found to be free of COVID-19.
That said they still have to comply with noticing and other legal requirements.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org