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Rain, cold pose homeless issues
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The rain has been sending homeless to seek cover under freeway overpasses in Manteca.
But with near freezing temperatures expected overnight Friday and Saturday, rain could be the least of their problems.
In the 9 o’clock hour Thursday morning one homeless man opted to bed down on the sidewalk under the Highway 99 overpass on East Yosemite Avenue during a light drizzle. By the afternoon as rain started coming down, there were three men under the Highway 99 overpass attempting to keep their various carts filled with blankets and pillows dry while lying up against the concrete retaining walls.
Some were using the concrete ledges that serve as a perch of sorts under the 120 Bypass bridge crossing of Moffat Boulevard and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Some had sleeping bags and blankets.
Then there was Library Park and its gazebo that was designed as a band stand/stage for community events.  Every seat under its roof was spoken for as of 5 p.m. Thursday. There was also an extensive collection of backpacks and carts.  Similar gatherings took place under the group picnic shelters at Lincoln and Northgate parks. It is legal for the homeless — and everyone else — to be in most city parks until dusk unless otherwise posted.
The homeless, working with Manteca Police’s community resource officer, have generally been avoiding Library Park in favor of gathering at nearby Wilson Park behind the Post Office with their belongings during the day. At night they have generally been avoiding seeking shelter under the gazebo during hours the CRO is not on duty. The rain changed that.
Homeless can often be seen as late as 1 a.m. sitting or cooking at the Lincoln Park picnic shelter on Powers Avenue regardless of the weather.
Driving downtown late Thursday afternoon saw a number of homeless who had already claimed spots in some doorways hoping they wouldn’t be noticed and be mostly out of any rain.  The east side of the library was also used during the day with its overhangs keeping the rain off of the heads of the homeless. The securing of the library courtyard with fencing has eliminated the homeless converging there.
The problem comes overnight Friday and Saturday when the projected low temperature is expected to dip to 36 degrees. That’s when the homeless are most apt to enter empty and abandoned homes in the community where they sometimes start fires to stay warm. Such warming fires have been suispected in several structure fires in recent years.
The city in the past has opened a warming shelter at the senior center when the temperatures dip below freezing.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email