A coordinated effort turned a problem area into a community asset at the Manteca Library.
The Friends of the Manteca Library hosted a Manteca Chamber of Commerce coffee at the library courtyard on Wednesday. There were 60 people in attendance.
A year ago the homeless were using the courtyard at night to sleep as they were able to stay out of view of the street. Some of the homeless, however, vandalized light fixtures so they could sleep while others ripped into electrical lines in a bid to charge smartphones. The area almost every morning had trash left behind and it wasn’t unusual for the homeless to use the area as their nocturnal bathroom. The situation posed safety issues for employees opening the library as well as the general public.
The city after spending thousands of dollars repairing and cleaning up reoccurring damage invested in a decorative wrought iron fence to secure the courtyard. The Friends of the Manteca Library added chairs as well as tables with umbrellas while the Manteca Garden Club upgraded the landscaping to make the area inviting for patrons wishing to enjoy good weather while reading a book.
Landscaping around the library has also been modified to discourage homeless from hiding bend it to sleep.
The City Council last month issued a contract for upcoming work to replace the library roof. It follows last year’s municipal investment in new carpet for the library.
To underscore that not all homeless are disrespectful or create problems, library staff on Wednesday made it clear that two homeless men sitting just outside the courtyard were welcomed at the library for having walked a belligerent patron out of the library recently rather than have him harass and mistreat a female security guard any further.
Charlene Carroll chimed in and said the two men — Anthony Gibbs, 50, and Neil Stallings, 46 — had been with her after an event at the LDS Mormon Church across from East Union High School on North Union Road recently to help her committee clean up after an event
The two men chatted with each other as they sat on a bench just outside the courtyard as chamber members enjoyed finger foods and coffee. Near the end of the coffee Manteca Police Captain Charlie Goeken walked outside the gated area with two large cupcakes and gave it to the men, receiving a prompt, “thank you officer”, in response.
Gibbs said he is a long-haul trucker from Oakland who has been without work for six months and hopes to be back behind the wheel soon.
Stalling said he is planning to hitch hike across the U.S. Stallings added that he went to a dentist in Manteca this week to have a tooth pulled that was hurting him. By trade he worked with canvas tarps and installing awnings most recently, he said, but now he has just been enjoying the Manteca community and planning for his trip to be followed by a sojourn to Alaska for a season.
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