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Temporary homeless resource tent under city water tower?
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One of the options for a long-term temporary home the city is pondering to allow Inner City Action pitch a tent to house a homeless resource center while efforts are made to find a permanent facility is at the base of the 57-year-old abandoned water tower on Wetmore Street across the tracks from the Manteca Transit Center.

Staff is working on presenting three possible options for a long-term tent set up while efforts are made to see whether a direct sale to Inner City Action of the Qualex building at 555 Industrial Park Drive can be made. Such a sale requires the California Legislature to intercede and 10 other taxing agencies to forgo revenue that a state-mandated auction of unused redevelopment agency property would generate.

The Qualex site wouldn’t work as a site for a long-term tent for two reasons. First, if the city manages to pull off the Qualex deal there would obviously be construction work at the site to make the building habitable. And if it doesn’t pull off the deal, it goes to auction.

The city is looking for a place on municipal property where a tent could be placed for a much longer period than the 30 days it was in place in the Qualex parking lot.

The water tower is the same one that just seven years ago that now Mayor Ben Cantu was advocating should be preserved as a historical landmark during his unsuccessful 2012 run for elected office.

Keep in mind a homeless resource center that Inner City Action operates is not a drop-in homeless shelter or a drop in soup kitchen. It is an entirely different animal.

In the last 30 months more than a fourth of the once homeless that Manteca got off its streets through a coordinated effort with Manteca Police officers and community groups has been through Inner City Action. When they are in their program, they are housed in living quarters Inner City Action owns in Stockton.

What makes the water tower site a bit problematic is the visual impact a tent in place for a prolonged period of time might have being on the southern edge of downtown. It would be in the line of sight of the large terrace dining being created on the patio rooftop just over a block away at the former Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. that is being transformed into The Veranda banquet and events center that is targeted to open in mid-summer.

Granted the existing view to the south as it is isn’t all that great except for the transit center.

That said a less problematic solution might be to allow the temporary use of the former city vehicle maintenance building next door to the water tower. The corrugated metal building is already in place and would seem to be able to be used for the type of purposes that the tent was on the Qualex parking lot. If it is deemed not safe for people to be inside the question would need to be asked why the city hasn’t already torn the structure down.

If the goal is look for a long-stay temporary site for a resource center that could run into a number of months, the corrugated building would seem to be a better fit to weather the elements.

There is also electricity in place meaning Inner City wouldn’t likely need to run a bunch of generators. The building also has restrooms. While the restrooms may not be enough, it would serve as a foundation. You also have the advantage of pulling a shower trailer inside the structure if you wish.

There will be those who may look at the location — either under the water tower or even the former vehicle maintenance building — and think the homeless will take to camping or sleeping in greater numbers in the downtown area.

Most of the homeless aren’t “camping” in the downtown area but instead are in areas such as along the 120 Bypass corridor and various areas where landscaping partially hides them. As for sleeping on sidewalks, there’s not much the city can do between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. as Manteca like all jurisdictions has to comply with court rulings. That said police can roust anyone who is blocking passage on sidewalks. As for those sleeping in doorways that are private property and not part of city sidewalks, if the police have a letter on file from the business impacted they can legally move people out for trespassing.

A resource center at that water tower location may be even more effective given the daytime crowd of homeless that hang out nearby at Library Park.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email