He calls himself “Joe.”
No last name. It exists, and he’ll throw it out there when he’s stopped for rifling through a dumpster or drinking a tall can out in public, but for the most part “Joe” likes to fly under the radar of the ordinary people of the city.
And that’s truer today than it ever has been.
With the City of Manteca searching for ways to handle what has become a growing problem – what to do with the homeless population both during the day and when the sun goes down – people like “Joe” are constantly on guard for the black-and-white units that are constantly looking for people like him.
It doesn’t bother him. He gets it. There was a time in his life, he says, when he would have called the police because a guy like him was sleeping in his doorway. It’s not something that you want to stumble upon.
For the most part, he said, the officers that stop the homeless are cordial, even if they’re all business. They’ve seen it all and he knows that spinning a yarn isn’t going to get him any leeway now that the people in the community have planted a flag against people like him.
“Word travels pretty quickly out here. One person will hear from another person about something that was in the newspaper and all of a sudden everybody knows what’s going on,” he said. “That’s how we know we need to stay away from certain places. That and the police come by and tell us that we need to move along.
“Things are the way they are and I can’t change that for everybody. But they’re definitely changing in a hurry out here.”
“Joe” used to be a regular at Library Park. He was part of the contingent that hung out by the park benches, and watched people OD in the bathrooms on dope that they bought with money from “canning” – the hard, oftentimes illegal practice of pulling aluminum cans and plastic bottles out of trash cans and recycling bins.
But that haven is gone now. The cops, he says, just up and started kicking everybody out and the cliques that once gathered there are now all over the city. Some are behind what used to be Blockbuster. Some have people over near Southside Park. Some just scatter during the day – trying to find peace wherever possible.
The politics aren’t what bothers him. “Joe” says he knows that showing up at a City Council meeting to enact change is pretty much out for somebody like him. But that doesn’t mean that people still can’t use the help – that there are people out on the streets worth investing in.
“Not everybody is completely gone,” he said. “You shouldn’t write all of us off just yet.”