Mike Kelly is the morning wake up guy for dozens of homeless who legally sleep in public places such as the expansive sidewalk in front of the Manteca Library.
Given most of the homeless are on a first-name basis with the community resource officer it is a cordial encounter. The homeless wake up, clean up any mess they may have made, and pack up their belongings.
Kelly is enforcing Manteca’s carefully crafted laws about sleeping on sidewalks that meets legal thresholds imposed by the 9th District Court of Appeals that is the law of the land of eight western states including California.
Anyone can sleep on municipal sidewalks providing there is adequate clearance between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The foundation of the ruling was simple. Given being homeless per se is not a crime, cities cannot make it illegal to prevent the homeless from doing things that any person would need to do to function such as sleep.
The homeless can’t sleep in public places closed at specific times such as parks where no one can be — including those that have shelter. The courts have allowed “reasonable” carve outs of other places that aren’t closed to the public. The city chose to make what exceptions they could apply to the transit center and Manteca VFW, both of which are located on Moffat Boulevard.
Manteca for more than six years has been working to abide by court rulings whether it is how they handle issues revolving around camping and the process they need to go through to remove illegal encampments
The Manteca Police along with public works, streets. and park maintenance crews work on an ongoing basis to make sure when the rest of Manteca is up that the homeless aren’t asleep on downtown sidewalks and other public locations.
“There’s a lot the city is doing every day to try and minimalize quality of life issues for residents and to try to get the homeless off the streets.” Kelly said.
The ultimate goal is to work with the homeless to get them off the streets. That requires building trust. And that takes time.
The city has had met some success in getting homeless off the streets. Kelly puts that number in excess of 300 since he first started as Manteca’s officer dedicated to addressing homeless concerns. That success was possible by working with community-based groups, county services, and volunteers to address homeless needs and to work them — when they are ready — through various programs aimed at getting them of the streets, making them employable, and ultimately being able to house and support themselves.
That has been done without a central year round location. The City Council is working toward changing that by establishing a homeless navigation center on part of 8 acres they have targeted to purchase along South Main Street.
Once that happens, the city will be able to become more effective at its efforts to get the homeless off the streets and to reduce quality of life issues the homeless cause throughout the community.
The city is planning a homeless webinar on Tuesday, April 27, at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. It is designed as a town hall on homeless issues. The city and organizations they are working with will share what they are doing, talk about ways people can help and answer questions and address concerns.
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