Mike Kelly’s face is the first thing that many of the homeless of Manteca see every morning.
The Manteca Police Department’s new Community Resource Officer – the first of two that are being employed by the department to work closely with the homeless community – joked on Thursday morning at a department-sponsored summit that he often serves as an “alarm clock with no snooze button” to the homeless that are sleeping on private property within the city limits.
But while Kelly joked about his newly-formed role, the gathering of social workers, faith-based organizations and concerned volunteers at the Manteca Transit Center had a serious tone that centered on coordinating efforts to ensure that the people who need the help actually get it – something that Kelly, who had served as Manteca’s longtime booking officer and thus got to see many of the same faces over-and-over again, had made his unofficial mission even before his position was created.
And it’s something that has the full backing of Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion.
“What we want to be able to do is help provide a better life – whether it’s a situation somebody is facing by choice or by unfortunate circumstances,” Obligacion said during his introduction to the group. “We want to find the way to help them with a hand-up and not a hand-out – that’s something that you’ll hear a lot – and assist them in getting back to the life that they should be living.”
One of the reasons for Thursday’s summit – part of an ongoing series of events aimed at creating dialogue between those that can assist in tackling Manteca’s homeless issue – was to coordinate between groups to ensure that there’s no overlap and that the essential services are being rendered.
According to Kelly, while it’s important that there are groups providing food and clothing to the homeless in the community, what ends up happening more often than not is that the majority of food goes uneaten because of the sheer amount that is handed out – often strewn about parks or left as litter somewhere. When bags of clothes are handed out, he said, those on the street often rifle through it for something that they can use and leave the rest just sitting there for somebody else to clean up.
In order to prevent overlap, Kelly suggested having a point coordinator for issues like job networking, rehabilitation, tracking and financial assistance. By creating a point person who has information and contacts in that particular area, his job of helping those find the resources they need would be streamlined, and the groups that provide services would be able to more effectively serve their target audience.
One of the issues that he brought up was reunification of homeless people in the community with their families – adding that there’s one female on the street that came from Pennsylvania, and has expressed interest in wanting to go back but doesn’t have the resources to buy a bus, plane or train ticket. Whether it’s through donations or working with the carriers themselves, being able to provide that service – along with little things like being able to drive somebody to a detox facility if they choose to clean up from drugs or alcohol (which Kelly said is a large problem amongst the homeless community) – will better serve both the homeless population and the community at large.
Thursday’s meeting marked a continuance of the department’s effort to connect with non-profits, faith-based charities and governmental outreach programs to facilitate assisting those who need it.
A future meeting mapping out a plan on how to incorporate the ideas from Thursday’s session will be held in the coming months.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.