David and Chelsea Oliveira were once the face of Manteca’s homeless problems.
They were doing drugs. They filled Wilson Park behind the Post Office with all sorts of belongings that most people would consider trash.
When it rained they’d retreat to a cardboard box near the railroad tracks while David searched for plastic to help keep them dry. Meals were from what discarded cold pizza David could secure dumpster diving behind Domino’s Pizza.
They’d “run” whenever the outreach teams working in concert with the Manteca Police community reserve officers dedicated to homeless concerns and crimes came to talk to them.
It was on the street that Oliveira had a miscarriage.
Still Manteca Police didn’t give up on them nor did faith-based community outreach organizations working in concert with mental health services and other governments agencies.
Then Thanksgiving rolled around. Love INC (In the Name of Christ) invited the couple to a Thanksgiving meal and even got them a hotel room so they could clean up. They feed them and gave them leftovers to take back to their room before they returned to the streets.
“There were no sermons,” Chelsea said. “The just loved on us.”
Finally enough rapport and trust had been developed that the couple made the step that homeless find hard to take — they asked for help to get off the street.
It was at that time Chelsea discovered she was pregnant again.
On Thursday, David and Chelsea stood before nearly 100 people at the latest homeless summit at the Manteca Transit Center that marked the second anniversary of the city’s concentrated effort to address homeless issues.
They will tell you it is a miracle there are where they are now today.
And they brought with them another miracle — their young son Emmanuel.
The couple is among the success stories born from a Manteca City Council decision two years ago to commit more than $200,000 a year in resources specifically on homeless issues with the bulk of the cost being in the salaries and benefits for the two CROs.
David is now supporting his family with a job that has a 401K retirement plan. They are off the streets.
“We were dirty, scared, and lost,” Chelsea told those in attendance. “We were introduced to the love of the Lord. . . We were lost souls that came home.”
In the past two years, more than 200 homeless have either been taken off the streets and placed into rehab programs or reunited with families using the resources of a host of community non-profits. Among that number are those the effort has prevented from becoming homeless.
Mike Kelly — one of the city’s two full-time CROs — notes those prevented from ending up on the streets aren’t just families in financial straits that non-profits like Love INC and others will work with, but adult children who use drugs that parents are at their wits’ end and ready to throw them out of their homes. The CROs have been able to interceded in a number of cases and get such individuals into treatment to avoid them from becoming homeless.
Kelly made it clear that Facebook posting that slam the city for not making homeless accountable for illegal acts are way off based.
He noted in the past year they have issued 87 citations for camping violations, 31 shopping cart violations, and five for fairly serious property crimes.
At the same time in any given week the city clears out five to 15 illegal homeless encampments.
Kelly also asked residents who see homeless committing crimes to call the police and not post it on Facebook a day or so later and slam the police for not doing anything.
“Call us,” Kelly said, noting the police can’t do anything unless they are contacted in a timely fashion.
The outreach team composed of non-profits such as Inner City Action, HOPE Ministries, and Catholic Charities that work with homeless veterans as well as mental health and other county services make the rounds to the homeless.
The goal is to build trust and to make the homeless aware of what services are out there so that when they are ready to start the journey to turn their lives around all they have to do is call a CRO and they will make arrangements and drive them to the facilities.
Kelly emphasized not every person that they get into a program ends up being a success story. But as others pointed out they won’t give up on the homeless noting second, third, and fourth chances are not that uncommon before things finally click.
Kelly shared some 583 Facebook surveys from people who tended to be critical of Manteca’s homeless efforts that the officer described as being ahead of the curve.
“A week doesn’t go by that we don’t have another agency contacting us and wanting to see what we are doing so they can replicate the effort in their community,” Kelly said.
Last week it was Livermore officials.
Kelly highlighted two survey questions. Some 68.9 percent were of the belief that the homeless in Manteca had no ties to Manteca. Based on one-on-one interaction with the homeless and others, Kelly said the vast majority either once lived in a home in Manteca, have family here, or have other ties.
He noted another question indicated 76 percent of the respondents thought the city wasn’t holding the homeless responsible for crimes.
Kelly pointed to citations as prove that is not the case as well as countless encounters where the homeless are advised of illegal behavior and then comply.
Coordinating with DA
on crimes committed
by habitual homeless
Manteca Police are working closely with the neighborhood district attorney assigned to the South County and is housed in space at the police station to pursue vertical prosecution of the five top homeless individuals that are habitual offenders.
That means one DA will stay on cases involving the five individuals being zeroed in on instead of handing out various parts of the process between DA staff that in any given day will handle 100 cases in court. That way the DA becomes familiar with the history of the person being prosecuted and doesn’t just rely on a police report handed to them for their part of the prosecution process.
“Homeless is not a crime,” Deputy DA Dan Arriola reminded those gathered at the Transit Center. “There is a criminal element among the homeless.”
The goal is to either get them into treatment or maximum jail time to be held accountable for their offenses instead of “slipping through the cracks.”
The cost effectiveness of such an approach was underscored when Arriola shared what it costs taxpayers to deal with crimes associated with the homeless. The initial booking and investigation cost is $850 per incident while the arraignment process is $2,500 per person.
Arriola noted the pilot program for vertical prosecution in Stockton’s Wilson Way neighborhood has been a success. Offenders are gotten off the streets and/or into programs while at the same time cleaning up blight as part of their sentences.
Arriola said the result has been cleaner streets, people feeling safer and merchants reporting an uptick in economic activity as people feel comfort to shop and access restaurants.
The county is now setting up a Ready to Work program where homeless can be enrolled for up to 15 months using former honor farm barracks at the county jail that will accommodate up to three dozen people at one time.
They are enjoying success at getting homeless of the street, cleaned up and trained and into $15 an hour jobs working at fulfillment centers.
Randy Chiek — a former Manteca Police officer who came out of retirement to assist with the CRO program working with the homeless — related how he was able to get a homeless individual a job that he started this week.
“It is a great feeling to be able to help people,” he said.
Manteca now has CROs working on homeless issues seven days a week.