Mayor Ben Cantu is pushing for more restrictions on where the homeless can “camp” or set up tents in Manteca.
Among the changes Cantu would like to see considered being made to the city ordinance regarding illegal camping that was updated in 2016 to implement a settlement that avoided a class action lawsuit brought by homeless contending the city was violating their rights include:
*Banning the homeless and anyone else from camping, pitching a tent, or parking a vehicle to sleep in within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, or recreational sports pages.
*Making a similar prohibition along all designated safe routes to schools.
Victoria Brunn, the Manteca Unified Chief Business and Information Officer, said the district would appreciate the city possibly putting such restrictions in place.
The safety of students with interactions with some homeless was one of the driving forces behind the Measure M bond issue given less than stellar secured campuses with the worst being Manteca High.
A few years back before the city moved to enhance the Manteca High campus security by letting the district take over a segment of Garfield Avenue, the homeless would routinely wander through the middle of campus.
At one point police had to be called when a homeless individual strayed onto campus with a long knife sheathed at his side.
The homeless also often sleep adjacent to the eastern side of the campus near Lincoln Park.
They also camp under trees along the Tidewater Bikeway that are within 1,000 feet of the campus as well as on a prime route for students to walk to and from Manteca High from south of the 120 Bypass.
Earlier this year, a used school bus occupied by the homeless that that had been converted into an RV was parked 24/7 for weeks at a time on the southside of Moffat Boulevard right at the Garfield Avenue crosswalk directly across from campus.
Under the current restrictions on camping as well as the homeless’ ability to use public property for camping until such time beds are available in a shelter, it is not illegal for the homeless to do what they have been doing.
Homeless advocates concede not only does the homeless population have a segment that abuse drugs and alcohol and therefore can be unpredictable, but there also are people with serious mental issues.
Cantu made his request for staff to explore updating Manteca’s anti-camping ordinance after the City of Sacramento made their ordinance more robust
Tracy is in the process of doing the same thing.
2015 class action lawsuit
triggered current city law
The man who had the most to do with shaping Manteca’s current response to homeless issues isn’t on the municipal payroll.
It’s Robert Schuknecht. He’s the guy who for over a year blocked part of the city sidewalk by the driveway to the East Yosemite Avenue McDonald’s with his three-level cart stacked with his belongings. He’d often sit on the sidewalk with his off leash dog while strumming his guitar between taking handouts from people and firing up his BBQ in the landscaped areas of an adjoining dental office.
Schuknecht got three other homeless men and obtained legal counsel to sue the City of Manteca on Nov. 13, 2015 in federal court essentially for not providing them shelter and enforcing ordinances that allegedly violated their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit contended:
*The city was targeting the homeless by locking restrooms at Library Park and turning off the electricity at the gazebo at Library Park so the homeless couldn’t charge their smartphones.
*The City Council demonstrated they were targeting the homeless because they sent a letter to Assembly member Kansen Chu expressing their concern with proposed legislation that would prevent cities from adopting ordinances prohibiting people from sleeping or resting in a legally parked motor vehicle and penalizing people when they did.
*There is insufficient shelter space for homeless in Manteca and that the three shelters that exist do not accept single homeless men.
*The city violated the 8th and 14th Amendments by making being homeless a crime.
*Three municipal codes regarding camping, transient shelter, and storage of personal property violated the 4th, 8th and 14th Amendments.
Steps Manteca took to
avoid a massive
Manteca leaders — seeking to avoid a lawsuit they were advised could end up costing the city millions that insurance might not cover — suspended enforcement of ordinances that were in place to address quality of life issues homeless can create after the lawsuit was filed.
And, instead of putting the city’s coffers in the hands of a federal jury they attained specialized legal counsel to see what other cities had in place to address homeless issues that has passed constitutional muster in the courts.
Those steps included:
*Eliminating the entire ordinance dealing with transient shelter.
*Deleting “homeless” references in the camping ordinance to make it clear the rules apply to everyone.
*Changing municipal law to comply with court rulings that essentially say the homeless have the right to sleep and can do so on non-secured public property from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day adding the Manteca Transit Center and the Manteca Community Center (Manteca Veterans Center), both on Moffat Blvd., as locations where camping would not be allowed ever as well as locations such as parks that are closed during specific hours as well to everyone.
That doesn’t cancel out other laws. For example, the city has to allow sleeping on public sidewalks from 11 p.m. to 6 p.m. providing laws regarding access including the handicapped are observed. That means a clear passage of three feet. It is why sleeping on public sidewalks in residential neighborhoods is virtually universally illegal while commercial district sidewalks that tend to be six feet or wider makes it legal to do so
*Modified the personal storage ordinance to note items removed from parks and other locations would be held for 90 days instead of 72 hours as was previously stipulated before being destroyed. That is more robust than the 30-day requirement the courts have insisted on.
Settlement paid $47,000
to homeless & their lawyers
After those steps were taken, the city approved a settlement agreement in 2016 that covered the following:
*The four plaintiffs including Schuknecht and their attorneys received $47,000. (The city also incurred nearly $30,000 in legal costs.)
*The city expunged pending citations and/or charges regarding the three municipal code sections targeted in the suit.
*The city put in place a community resource officer to help direct homeless to services and deal with homeless issues as well as conduct future homeless summits and seek opportunities to apply for state and federal affordable housing and homeless grants.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org