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City’s warming center lures 121 non-local homeless
homeless tent 1

The Manteca City Council was told last week by municipal staff that the number of non-local homeless that have dropped by the warming center was “about three to four.”

That number presented during an update report to the council regarding the status of efforts to establish a permanent homeless resource center/drop-in shelter, however, was significantly understated. A report provided to the City of Manteca by Inner City Action regarding unduplicated check-ins at the warming center between Dec. 10 and March 1 states 121 people were from other cities and 388 from Manteca.

Given the current council and top level management has repeatedly made statements that they are striving to be as transparent as possible and that their level of transparency exceeds their predecessors, the mischaracterization of the data is a significant lapse.


Cantu has insisted shelter

won’t attract homeless

from outside of Manteca

That’s because the city — led by Mayor Ben Cantu — has been insisting that the warming center as well as the plan for a homeless resource center and drop-in shelter with 218 beds will not serve as a magnet to draw homeless from other cities.

But that is exactly what has happened given 1 out of every 4 or 24 percent of the 509 unduplicated homeless that checked into the warming center came from out of town.

A breakdown of the 121 out-of-town homeless included 51 from Stockton, 12 from Modesto, 10 from Lathrop, 9 from Tracy, 7 from Ripon, and 5 from Sacramento. The rest listed were one or two individuals from 23 different communities such as San Jose, Oakdale, and Livermore.

Based on the last point in time homeless count the 7 from Ripon is the exact same number Ripon counted as its homeless population in January 2019. The 10 from Lathrop represent more than two thirds of the 14 that were counted in Lathrop 14 months ago.

The numbers provided by Inner City Action also suggest the Manteca homeless problem is easily 50 percent worse than the point in time count that showed the city had 218 homeless.


Current Manteca homeless

number could be as high as

388 as opposed to 218

Based on information provided by the homeless who filled out “applications” before accessing services at the warming tent in the parking lot of the Qualex building at 555 Industrial Park Drive, there were 388 homeless that listed their last known address as being in Manteca.

The implications of that number of Manteca homeless being 388 could be significant.

The council’s stated objective has been to have adequate drop-in shelter beds so that if the homeless are sleeping in areas prohibited for such purpose under the city’s anti-camping ordinance they will be able to enforce the law. The U.S. Supreme Court by declining to review a decision by the 9th District Court of Appeals affirmed the court’s ruling that essentially suspends enforcement of anti-camping laws by local jurisdiction whenever there are not beds available for the homeless to use at a community shelter.

If there are empty beds in shelters and police come across those camping illegally they are allowed to enforce the law.

Given the next point in time count is in January 2021 and the envisioned drop in shelter at the Qualex site won’t open until August 2021 based on a timetable developed by city staff, the shelter may actually have to be larger than 218 beds.

If that is the case, Manteca could end up with the largest number of emergency shelter beds in one location.

The 2019 point in time count also inventoried emergency shelter and transitional housing beds throughout San Joaquin County. The overall number was 1,295 with 942 of those identified as emergency shelter beds.


Previous mayors equated

homeless shelter to

building “The Field of Dreams’

Cantu has been vocal in dismissing assertions by his mayoral predecessors — Willie Weatherford and Steve DeBrum — that “if we build it they will come” meaning any drop-in emergency shelter that opens in Manteca will simply lure more homeless to the city making the local homeless situation worse.

The numbers also add credence to assertions by Councilman Gary Singh that there needs to be a coordinated effort among South County cities or else nearby communities could end up “dumping” homeless on cities that step up to provide additional emergency shelter beds.

In the first week that the warming center opened city personnel dealing with the homeless noted a Stockton homeless advocate tried to get two homeless individuals with mental issues to use the Manteca warming center. The same was true for officials trying to nudge the homeless out of Ripon.

Statistics for February show Inner City Action served 10 and 56 people at any meal setting. The overall numbers for the month showed 700 breakfasts were served, 774 lunches, and 1,086 dinners. They also provided 41 haircuts and 504 showers.

They had 12 people get jobs, 6 people transitioned to programs, 13 people reconnected with family and friends as well as over 20 people have stopped using drugs and alcohol.

The daily check-in ranged from 43 to 67 with the overall month’s total at 1,733.

The overnight stays totaled 914 with nightly number ranging from a low of 24 to a high of 39.

Based on the 218 homeless count from 2019, that means only 15 percent accessed the warming center.

The warming center will remain in place through March 31 when the council declared cold emergency ends.

The city is working on purchasing the Qualex property to house a permanent homeless effort. Based on a 2019 appraisal and deficiencies the city is already aware of it will cost $2.3 million to acquire and make improvements such as put on a new roof. That doesn’t include the cost to make the facility functional as a homeless resource center or drop-in shelter.

The city already has spent almost $5 million to buy and do work on the Qualex building using redevelopment agency funds for use as a new police station before dropping the project. The city lost ownership of the property when the state disbanded RDAs.

The numbers provided by Inner City also reflected the highly transient aspect of roughly a fifth of a 10th of the homeless in Manteca at any given time that based on addressed given appear to be perhaps lingering in Manteca for a few days before moving on.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email