The one article in Tuesday morning’s Bulletin that really caught my attention, and that I hope also attracted the eyeballs of those at City Hall, was the story of how the City of San Diego is now forced to power wash the streets in order to “combat a deadly outbreak of hepatitis A” which has killed 15 people and hospitalized 300 others. The cause of this outbreak, authorities have determined, is the homeless urinating and defecating outdoors wherever they choose.
Now, how many local parents or grandparents do you suppose will be taking their children to Library Park, or attending the farmer’s market there after reading that little tidbit? Probably the same number of caring adults who would drop little Nathan and Naomi off at a leper colony for an afternoon, if they could find one. Which leads me to your column in the same issue, ‘Fighting crime in Manteca: Enforce property upkeep’.
I find it really annoying when some low-life puts their broken down, ratty, cootie infested furniture or disgusting stained mattress out on the curb with a ‘free’ sign attached. As if, by putting the ‘free’ sign on it, the item is suddenly imbued with value instead of being what it is, a nasty piece of junk, crawling with flesh eating bacteria. I believe that in this case the city agrees, and has classified ‘garbage, junk, and debris on private property’ as a code violation. Way to go, City of Manteca!
I think that the city, in response to each of these problems caused by the homeless in one case, and lazy idiots and the homeless in the other, has to take steps that they normally would not have considered to be their role in the pre-homeless era.
Constantly power washing the streets of Manteca with bleach solution would be considerably more expensive than locating port-a-potties with hand washing stations at points throughout the city where the homeless gather. I suggested in a letter to the editor years ago that the city build a public restroom with showers and tubs for the homeless to do their laundry, along with benches and a shade structure, in the city corporation yard behind the vehicle maintenance shop.
It could be an open structure that could easily be hosed down by city staff, and locked up from dawn to dusk. The location could have a bulletin board where homeless folks could learn about outreach programs offering them assistance, and would be cheaper to build and maintain, and less attractive, than a shelter. It could have power sources for them to charge their cell phones, and a sharps collection container too. Maybe even set up a needle exchange program there.
I’ve always enjoyed your ‘darts and laurels’ columns, and think that you should add another category, ‘close, but no cigar’. A bi-annual city pick-up, free or not, of old furniture and mattresses just wouldn’t cut it. If the city is serious about containing the homeless problem, and it seems that they are, they will have to come up with new ways to address certain components of that can-of-worms.
One thing that the city could do immediately would be to shuffle some money over to the Solid Waste Division to pay for the collection of old mattresses and furniture for free or at low cost, say $5, not the $50.77 that they charge now. In fact, it used to cost $5 for years to have a large item picked up until the Finance Department or the Solid Waste Division jacked up the fee, which has result in furniture and mattresses being dumped around the city instead, resulting in the problems that you mentioned in your column.
I give the city credit for thinking outside the box about the homeless issue, and Officer Kelly in particular for doing an outstanding job as Community Resources Officer. When surrounding cities are watching the City of Manteca in hopes of learning how to handle their own homeless problems, we are, oddly, in an enviable position.