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About the ‘fact’ Manteca made an assessment of impacts of 283 beds for a homeless facility
homeless tracks
A makeshift homeless shelter near the Manteca Library was put in place — and removed — several months ago. It was hidden from Yosemite Avenue by oleander bushes.

Where is Sgt. Joe Friday when you need him?

If you aren’t old enough to remember when they called single homeless men hobos, he was a character in a popular police detective series dubbed “Dragnet” that started when the world of TV was black and white.

He was the guy who owned the four words, “just the facts, ma’am.”

Such a quaint antiquated expression these days, isn’t it?

Too bad we don’t deal more in the no-nonsense world in which Sgt. Friday served and protected.

It would be nice to have him narrate Manteca’s current episode of “Homeless Hallucinations.”

It centers around that perceived den of inequity better known as the low-barrier homeless navigation center.

The latest flap is how many beds the center will have.

Talk to the usual suspects, and you’ll see they are all over the map.

Former Mayor Ben Cantu says 50.

Some council members expect it’ll be around 100 or so.

Those prone to make hostage videos and post them on the Internet say it’ll get out of control and be the equivalent of Woodstock in terms of how the homeless will overrun Manteca.

And the city brass say they don’t know yet.

How would Sgt. Friday get to the truth?

First, he’d look just for the facts.

He’ll find them in black and white on the city’s website.

They’re on the Community Development page under planning documents.

A deeper dive clicks on the environmental file where you will find a study done on 682 South Main Street.

It is the required environmental assessment.

It is based on a project with 283 beds costing $28 million.

Both are “real” numbers.

They are “real” in terms of what was being assessed.

As such, it judges the navigation center project’s impacts is it where that size.

These set a key parameter.

Once the findings of the document are accepted, that represents the largest the shelter can be — 283 beds.

It cannot be any larger.

But it can be smaller, as a smaller project would mean lesser potential impacts.

Therefore, a smaller project could proceed because its impacts would be less than what was determined to be acceptable in the environmental assessment of “human impacts.”

Why pick such a large number if that isn’t what the city wants built?

You could easily make the answer complicated, but why bother?

The bottom line is what is important.

There are three goals that are not in dispute.

The city wants to have a navigation center that can be effective in getting the homeless to where they can be sheltered and support themselves as much as possible.

The city wants to be able to have a large enough facility that there are adequate beds to allow the enforcement of anti-camping ordinances.

The city wants to live within its means in terms of what it can afford to build.

By going large, they have the cushion in terms of the laborious and drawn out environmental assessment process.

If you belong to the loose association of those that like to school the city in how they never adequately plan anything, you should be happy.

They listened.

So, how did they come up with the “conceptual” number of 283 beds?

Good question.

And there is no straight-forward answer.

There is the last point in time count that placed Manteca’s homeless at 218.

The next count is being done on Jan. 29.

There is a general belief it will be higher.

It is also clear there is a large chunk of the homeless who will not avail themselves to shelter if there was a bed available.

If for no other reason, they aren’t about to follow rules.

For some of those, it may be mental issues. But for others it is a choice.

And barring the United States Supreme Court plunging the nation into complete chaos, it is the choice of elected leaders to minimize homelessness issues by equipping Manteca with the legal means to regain control of its streets.

As such, the city had better plan big.

Rest assured after the next count is done, other such centers are analyzed, and a general read has been established about the leanings of the local homeless populace to just say no, a bed number will be devised that will shape the final project’s design.

We know it won’t be more than 283 beds.

No one is willing to venture an educated guess at this point because they’d prefer not to become a pin cushion for those launching social media barbs.

If you were an oddsmaker and had to devise a number, you might go with 80 to 125.

But in reality, the number that will drive everything will have a dollar sign in front of it.

In his case, it’s is likely to be the $20 million the city has on hand.

That’s $8 million less than the $28 million tab estimated for 283 beds.

This is where detective works following the facts comes into play.

It would be wise to size the basic support facilities — kitchen, showers, bathrooms, day room, dining area, and offices for services and programs — with room so one doesn’t have to go back and expand them.

The dorms are another issue.

That’s where the need to pare back $8 million or so will come from.

The city could build enough room for 50 or 150 beds or any number in between.

In doing so, couldn’t that bring them up short?

How can one assume that If they build dorm space for, let’s say 125 beds, to allow males, females, and families to be accommodated that the city will have adequate space.

It’s because the city has a fallback plan it can implement.

There is enough dorm space for 50 beds in the temporary buildings at the existing emergency shelter at 555 Industrial Park Drive.

The city hopes to get a grant for dorms for another 50 beds.

Those dorms can be relocated to the homeless navigation center if needed.

Then, presto, instead of having 125 beds the city could have 175 or possibly 225 beds.

The odds are, based on city leaders’ expectations, it will not require 225 beds to address the need as well as being able to finally enforce quality of life laws.

But if it does, the city will have environmental clearance and the support capacity to do the job the community is now expecting.

That is why the 283 bed number is “real”.

The odds are it likely won’t be needed or built.

But if it does, the city has a way to keep things moving forward instead of spinning its wheels.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at