A homeless woman on Monday night plopped down with her possessions — three bins, a couple of stuffed plastic bags, and a pull shopping cart — on the sidewalk along East Yosemite Avenue near Lincoln School.
It is where she bedded down for the night.
The next day at 4 p.m. the items were still there minus the homeless woman. Thousands of vehicles would pass by during the course of the day. There was barely enough room for an able-bodied person to walk around them and stay on the sidewalk that is flush with cyclone fencing. It was another issue for those handicapped in power chairs.
By Wednesday, she was moving her stuff to another location.
The piling of such items on sidewalks and other public areas or being pulled around town triggers negative reactions from many. But what they see as trash is not what the homeless see. Instead they see it for what it is — all of their worldly possessions and what they need to survive on the streets.
“To the homeless, it is their life,” noted Assistant City Manager Lisa Blackmon.
And if you talk to the homeless the reason they often bring their stuff with them when they move about as they are worried other homeless will pilfer them who are well versed on places where you can stash stuff in Manteca.
Blackmon and other city officials are caught between a rock and a hard place.
They have empathy for the homeless and they get the fact the items can be a real eye sore as well as pose hazards and even safety issues for the general public. They also have to adhere to court rulings.
And while the law may not prevent the city from having police and/or public works crews remove such items they have to store them for a minimum of 30 days under court adjudicated settlements. In the city’s case they double the holding time to allow the homeless ample opportunity to retrieve their belongings before they are destroyed.
It is a costly and time consuming practice that doesn’t make sense to use unless the homeless have clearly left items in a specific locations for more than a couple of days.
All of that is why as the city is going forward to get a homeless navigation center they are looking for solutions for what would be called quality of life crimes blocking sidewalks with what many may view as piles of junk.
The city is now exploring a plan that could tackle homeless concerns about their belongings being secure as well as community concerns about blight and safety.
The Turlock Gospel Mission that the city is considering awarding a $143,000 to operate a Manteca warming center for the homeless this winter is working with the city for a possible solution.
It is a takeoff on what several Southern California beach cities as well as Los Angeles in two neighborhoods have employed to address the problem.
But instead of securing new 96-gallon carts such as the ones the City of Manteca solid waste uses to collect green waste, garbage, and recyclables the Turlock Gospel Mission is looking at a system that would employ large Army-like duffel bags.
“With carts they have to take everything out often to get to what they need for that day,” Blackmon said.
Such cart operations instruct the homeless to layer items with stuff they need access to the least — such as winter or rain gear during the summer — on the bottom and what they use every day such as toiletries and personal hygiene items.
The SoCal operations using carts typically see the homeless store things they need to survive on the streets every day such as change of clothes, socks, hygiene items, foldable tents, and blankets
Typically there are set hours that the homeless can access carts in the morning and the afternoon. Carts are loaded and unloaded by the homeless in a designated area and then rolled into a storage area for safe keeping. Each cart is assigned a number for tracking.
There is no fee for storing the items. They can keep items at the storage site site for a few days or much long periods.
General rules are the homeless can store what they wish with a few exceptions such as firearms, drugs or anything that is illegal material.
Besides securing items for the homeless and getting it off the street where it is usually viewed as trash by the non-homeless, it also makes it easier for the homeless that are trying to get jobs to go to interviews without bringing their possessions with them.
It is also seen as a way to make the homeless look less homeless.
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