It’s a given that it is not a crime to be homeless.
A nomadic lifestyle, however, doesn’t give one the right to destroy private property or make public spaces pigsties.
We’re not talking about pushing around belongings in a shopping cart, setting bulging plastic bags next to park benches while seated, or being disheveled.
The issue is rummaging through dumpsters and tossing what you don’t want on the ground and not putting it back in the bin, leaving piles of garbage in shopping carts, ripping out wiring in a bid to charge smartphones, breaking out security lights so you can sleep, destroying landscaping and an endless list of other transgressions that go way beyond surviving on the streets.
The city is slowly “homeless proofing” what public spaces they can in a bid to enhance public safety and health. The wrought iron fence that secured the library courtyard means kids and everyone else can now access the library without having to worry about overnight homeless campers that leave behind drug paraphernalia, human waste, garbage, and shattered light fixtures littering the ground. Actually most people never saw that mess thanks to the daily Herculean efforts of the Manteca Parks and Recreation maintenance staff.
City crews also have been slowly taking out the beautiful mature bushes along the Tidewater Bikeway north of the skate park and replacing them with trees.
Some homeless advocates might argue the homeless are only seeking shelter but there is a bigger issue. The Tidewater Bikeway is used by people of all ages. They should not be intimidated by those homeless who aren’t civil. The city is taking pro-active steps before serious issues develop.
The 34-acre Tidewater Bikeway is a city park and not a homeless camping zone. It is illegal for anyone to camp in a park or be in it after it closes. Kudos to the city for working diligently to avoid the Tidewater from slipping into the control of the homeless as happened along the bike trail in Orange County.
Private property owners have used the same strategy replacing bushes that have given the homeless cover with more open vegetation.
AKF Development had to finally secure a trash bin enclosure backing up to Historical Plaza Way behind Applebee’s with fencing including on top last year after homeless started setting up housekeeping.
The Chevron station at Yosemite and Spreckels avenues has a solution that the city should adopt as a standard for all new development. To stop the trashing of the area from homeless rummaging through their dumpster and — if it is like many others — sleeping in it as well, they placed a roof over it with open metal slats between the top of the masonry wall and the roof.
Given that the roof above dumpster enclosures has picked up traction as a way of complying with federal standards that take a dim view of storm runoff being polluted with whatever is in a dumpster, adding the side slats would address two pressing concerns in one fell swoop.
You cannot run the homeless out of Manteca nor should you. They have rights just like everyone else.
The city has done a commendable job so far getting close to 300 homeless off the street by either reuniting them with families or getting them into treatment programs.
It needs to step up its game to make sure the homeless that wantonly abuse laws that govern the behavior of all of us are not allowed to trash Manteca on a wholesale basis.
Meanwhile the rest of us— including those who have empathy or sympathy for the homeless — must practice tough love. Don’t give them money. Don’t give them clothes. Don’t give them food.
Anyone on the streets in Manteca for more than a day hears about the Manteca Police outreach effort that even will provide them vouchers for clothing they need. More than a few who have accepted the helping hand have said the persistence of the Manteca Police Department effort based on respect for the homeless and a need to follow the rules that effect everyone was the push they needed.
The effort will separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff. Those that are willing to accept help to get off the street once they tire of the struggle will do so. Those that don’t are simply playing Good Samaritans like a violin so they can booze it up, do drugs, and engage in anti-social behavior.
Life is about choices.
When the homeless have options and decline to pursue them to change their lot in life because misdirected generosity allows them to do so they have made a choice.
It is those homeless that have made it clear that they don’t want the help of the community as has been offered on a consistent and almost daily basis by Manteca Police community resource officers.
They are the reason why making Manteca as homeless proof as possible must be a priority.