There is a large fenced in “garden” area that is part of the Qualex property in the Manteca Industrial Park.
It could possibly one day be used to place “little houses” to provide shelter for the homeless.
That is just one of the out-of-the-box strategies city staff is brainstorming along with researching options for operating things such as a navigation center to connect homeless with resources, a drop in-shelter or both inside the former Qualex building.
And while the City Council has directed staff to pursue the purchase of the 57,000-square-foot former Kodak photo processing plant where Inner City Action will have its warming center tent in the parking lot through March 31, it is far from a done deal.
Acting City Manager Miranda Lutzow said staff is now in the process of doing due diligence to determine if there are any contamination or other issues that would make use of the Qualex building unfeasible or cost prohibitive.
The time frame for that effort is fairly short. Manteca must make a decision to ask the state for permission to buy the former redevelopment agency building before the end of the year or else by law it will go to auction with the proceeds split by 10 local taxing agencies including the city.
And to make sure if the purchase does take place, staff had been applying for homeless grants for that purchase to minimize the cost to local taxpayers.
But even though there are deadlines, Lutzow stressed the council will be presented with any potential pitfalls before the effort moves forward to the point of purchase.
Lutzow said spending perhaps into the low five figures for assessments of everything from the soil for possible contamination to the exact cost of repairs and remodeling could prevent the city from making a costly mistake that could easily surpass $2 million.
The last appraisal for the property was $1.5 million. The city under current rules would be able to buy it outright for the lowest appraised price.
As it stands now the Qualex building is the next step being explored to take the city’s two-pronged effort to the next level and even possibly instituting a homeless prevention program to help families stay sheltered before they become homeless.
The city has been working for the last three years with agencies — non-profits and through the county — to connect services while working to get the homeless off the street. The key component has been the city’s hiring of two community resource officers dedicated to homeless issues. A navigation center would take that effort to the next level.
At the same time the city wants to be able to enforce quality of life crimes but under a 9th District court ruling can’t do so unless they have beds available for the homeless to access.
That means Manteca needs to provide some form of drop-in shelter with beds year round for the homeless. In order to enforce the laws such as sleeping illegally in parks, there needs to be beds available for the homeless. If they are and the homeless refuse to use them and instead seek to break city laws that apply to everyone so they can sleep, the court has given jurisdictions the green light to move forward with enforcement.
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