Manteca is gearing up to outlaw all makeshift homeless housing.
The homeless, though, shouldn’t count on Manteca replacing it with permanent shelter.
The City Council Tuesday adopted the first reading of a pair of ordinances aimed at cracking down on public defecating and urination as well as giving police the legal authority using public work crews to take down any homeless encampment on private or public property starting Dec. 5.
Under current laws, the shelters can only be removed by police after the property owner has filed a trespassing complaint.
Police Chief Nick Obligacion said the city is already working on positing no trespassing signs on various enclosures where city dumpsters are placed. The enclosed areas for dumpsters are included in the list of prohibited homeless encampments.
The police chief said staff is currently devising an ordinance that would outlaw all dumpster diving whether it is for recyclables or in garbage foraging for food. That would take away a major source of income for the homeless — swiping recyclables. It also would cut off access to restaurant and grocery store food that is tossed.
At the same time the city is field testing lock-able Toters for residential use.
Since the new laws would be city ordinances that means they do not have to be prosecuted by the district attorney’s office that is burdened with much more pressing and serious criminal cases. Instead, those charged with violating the ordinances can be prosecuted by the city attorney.
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Odds are against a homeless shelter
As for the possibility of a permanent homeless shelter, Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford said that isn’t going to happen.
And even though Weatherford is not seeking re-election next month after 12 years of mayor, the odds of the next council’s position being any different is next to nil.
Mayor hopeful Ben Cantu wants the city to build a shelter but his opponent and current council member Steve DeBrum doesn’t. A shelter is not supported by any of the three council candidates.
“There is no money for a shelter,” Weatherford said of the city. “It would cost at least $1 million to open and $1 million a year to run.”
An annual expenditure of $1 million would cover the salaries and benefits of nearly seven additional firelighters and/or police officers.
The mayor said that when municipal staff was exploring possibilities for a veteran’s hall they looked at one available location downtown that was formerly a dance hall. The owner wanted $1.1 million. In addition it would have needed close to $1 million in renovations and upgrades.
Cantu at a candidates’ forum conducted by the Manteca TEA Party said the homeless solution shouldn’t be left up to the police department who roust them from one park only to have them go to another or kick them out of one side of town only for them to move to the other. The answer, he said, will come in building a homeless shelter where people can get a shower and a meal and the resources they need in order to make a positive change. He suggested that some of the abandoned industrial buildings in Manteca would be the perfect location.
DeBrum countered that “a shelter isn’t the answer” contending “if we build it they will come” meaning it would serve as a magnet for even more homeless to come to Manteca.
Weatherford contends the point is moot because no one is going to want a homeless shelter near their neighborhood whether it is in an industrial park or not.
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Homeless summit set for Oct. 29
Police Chief Nick Obligacion Tuesday encouraged anyone with a concern with the homeless — residents, business people and even the homeless themselves — to attend the homeless summit on Wednesday, Oct. 29, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Manteca Transit Center, Moffat Boulevard and South Main Street.
Concerns and suggestions will be taken during an open microphone session from 9 a.m. until noon. Then from 1 to 4 p.m. breakout sessions involving those providing homeless resources and organizations interested in helping will take place.
Obligacion has made it clear that he does not favor a homeless shelter.
That said he wants to put in place a solution that gives those that want off the street a way to do so. At the same time the department plans to step up its crackdown on illegal behavior by the homeless including if they fail to comply with the new municipal ordinances.