It was 52 degrees on the way to the mid-30s on Tuesday when the Manteca City Council settled on an option to offer a 24/7 shelter option starting in December against what appears to be shaping up as a colder than usual winter.
The green light the council gave for a $225,000 plan for Turlock Gospel Mission to lease a modular building that will sleep up to 50 people and care for the needs of 80 people during the day through March 31, 2021 is only a stop-gap measure designed to provide the homeless with some relief against the winter cold, rain, and fog.
A permanent solution to more effectively address homeless issues and work to get people off the streets is not moving forward at the moment.
That’s because city leaders are assessing what appears to be a hefty price tag for simply acquiring and prepping the basic building shell for the preferred homeless navigation center location at 555 Industrial Park Drive.
Not only will it cost the city at least $1.1 million to acquire the 57,000-square-foot site but it will take at least another $1 million just to make sure the building shell is inhabitable. That means the city could end up spending close to $4 million before even opening the doors.
Mayor Ben Cantu expressed his frustration that the city has been discussing using the Qualex building for two years either as a homeless shelter or navigation center and is no closer to starting physical work than they were two years ago.
His council colleagues, clearly showing signs of balking at the price tag, disagreed with Cantu’s assertion that they had settled on the Qualex location as the permanent location for the city’s homeless solution. Instead they said it was conditioned on cost estimates being secured and then weighed.
Estimates on what it would take to make interior improvements and secure furnishings needed to conduct programs aimed at ultimately getting the homeless of the streets will be determined in the coming weeks. The $1.1 million figure is to just bring the building’s shell up to standards.
Warming center will be in
place by no later than Dec. 10
Now that the Turlock Gospel Mission has been awarded the $225,000 contract, the warming center is expected to be operational no later than Dec. 10. It will be placed in the parking lot of the Qualex building at 555 Industrial Park Drive. That is where Inner City Action had its warming center tent last winter.
While that last point-in-time homeless count conducted in January 2019 put the homeless count in Manteca at 218, the warming center last year averaged only 31 people each night.
Cantu and others believe the response will be larger this winter as lows have already reached 33 degrees in the past week. The modular building will accommodate two thirds more homeless than who showed up last winter.
The $225,000 contract covers not just leasing the structure and needed furnishings, but staffing, program, utilities, and other needs. There would be seven employees — two full-time and five part-time — staffing the warming center.
The city plans to meet with neighboring concerns to share their plans for the warming center as well as what steps they will be taking to address issues that popped up last year such as illegal camping on neighboring property, fencing being cut, vandalism, thefts, intimidation of employees, defecating in landscaping, and the homeless milling around businesses while the warming center was open.
City Manager Miranda Lutzow said one of the measures will be increased police patrols of the surrounding areas.
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