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Temporary warming center first step to reduce illegal camping
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Dozens of needles used to shoot drugs scattered about.

PG&E connections being hacked into to charge cell phones as well as plug in hot plates for cooking and heating blankets for warmth.

Water delivery trucks are being broken into and water bottles taken.

Sleeping men — and sometimes women — blocking the entrance of offices in the morning with some acting in an intimidating matter when employees try to get past them and into work.

City mandated landscaping providing cover for encampments and storage.

Those are just a few of the homeless problems that businesses in the Manteca Industrial Park off of South Main Street encounter on a daily basis.

They are also problems that the City of Manteca hopes to reduce in a two-step strategy to allow police to legally apply more pressure on the homeless to tackle illegal activity.

The City Council earlier this week declared a health emergency due to the cold to allow for a temporary warming center to operate through March 31 in the parking lot of the former Qualex photo finishing plant at 555 Industrial Park Drive. Mayor Ben Cantu along with city officials and representatives of Inner City Action — the non-profit that will operate the warning center — to listen to concerns and share how they will address them once the temporary homeless facility opens.

Inner City Action will erect a large tent — the same they used early this year for a temporary day-time homeless resource center where no overnight sleeping was allowed — on the Qualex parking lot.

Frank Saldana of Inner City Action said the warming center will also offer cooked meals, haircuts, showers, bathrooms, haircuts and more in an effort to get the homeless off the streets and reduce the numbers that camp or sleep on public and private property.

“No one wants to sleep out in the cold or the rain,” Saldana said.

When the resource center was open, some businesses reported an increase of homeless sleeping on their property. They were even reported wandering into warehouses in search of the resource center. While Inner City transported most homeless in and then  returned them to where they were staying each night the resource center closed as well as monitored nearby property to make sure the homeless weren’t sleeping nearby due to the resource center, that effort did not reduce illegal encampments on either public or private property.

The story will be different this time.

“If you have homeless (camping on your property) give us a call and we will come pick them up,” Saldana assured nearby businesses as well as others elsewhere in the community.

The second part of the city strategy involves the possibility of establishing a permanent drop-in homeless center at one of eight possible locations owned by the City of Manteca.

Those sites will go before the City Council for review later this month.

Mayor Cantu explained court decisions bar cities from enforcing anti-camping laws unless they provide a bed in some type of shelter.

The last official homeless count taken in Manteca put the number of homeless at 218 on city streets.

The city would have to provide a shelter but not necessarily one with 218 beds.

That’s because based on the court ruling any time there is an available bed that is not filled, Manteca Police would have the legal authority to force the homeless to move from public property where they are illegally camping. It also would make enforcement of anti-camping laws on private property easier and more effective.

“There are homeless who will refuse to go to as shelter,” Manteca Police Community Resource Officer Mike Kelly said.

If that happens, police then can legally enforce anti-camping laws.

It doesn’t suspend anyone’s ability to sleep on a city sidewalk where the pavement is wide enough between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. It foes, however, give the city greater latitude to enforce sleeping/camping in other areas that aren’t 100 percent restricted to access to everyone regarding shelter status.

The City of Manteca is providing $25,000 for Inner City Action to pay for fuel to run generators to keep the tent warm.

The tent is expected to be in place sometime next week.