I am serenaded five nights a week by shouted vulgarities, screaming matches, and someone — like clockwork who passes by my window literally less than five feet away right around the bewitching hour — with a ghetto blaster at full volume.
Rarely am I alarmed by such behavior. It has become background noise that I semi pay attention to out of a nod to caution.
I can honestly say six things regarding the homeless after almost 30 years in being able to observe and hear their behavior while working late at night and in the wee hours of the morning on the eastern edge of downtown Manteca.
*The homeless have always been in Manteca contrary to those who believe otherwise. The late Frances Bynum, who formed the now defunct Love Thy Neighbor founded to lend a helping hand with food and clothing for the working poor and those down on their luck, would also feed the homeless in the 1950s. Back then they were generally called hobos.
*Homeless are much more mobile — and prevalent — as the night deepens after the sun goes down and before sunrise. Talk to a few homeless and you will find out why. A number, but not all, feel it is safer to sleep during the day. Others like the anonymity darkness provides.
*Those that aren’t living in their personal version of the Twilight Zone gather in high profile safe places such as the expansive sidewalk outside the Manteca Library courtyard secured wrought iron fencing along Center Street to bed down for the night. Others pitch small dome tents behind places such as the Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church next door to the Bulletin. Those in front of the library are often awakened by Manteca Police community resource officers when time expires at 6 a.m. daily on the legal window they have to sleep in public places as established by city in conformance with the mandate by the 9th District Court of Appeals. They also usually clean up the area. As for the dome tent homeless they usually clear out as the daily bustle begins.
*Yes, the homeless do pilferage through blue carts retrieving items with California redemption value under cloak of darkness. There are also a fair number that bicycle around Manteca between 12:30 and 2 a.m. clutching weed whackers and other items. This may be a wild guess on my part, but I assume they aren’t going to lawn service jobs and likely pilfered the equipment for resale. Other the years they have done this with some nice sized items such as pallet jacks.
*The homeless have the same bodily functions as you and I that creates daily cleanup issues for city crews, businesses, and some residents especially those with alleys.
*The so-called “low-hanging fruit” — those that combined Manteca Police Department and community based efforts have helped get off the streets — includes a number of people that landed there due to financial reasons.
I do not profess to be an expert when it comes to the homeless.
This may sound heartless but a lot of people end up on the street by choice basically because they don’t follow the rules. There is a point where families are pushed to the limit and it becomes a question of their survival — and often times children and teens of the homeless — that are pulled into the cesspool by the person that ends up on the street.
I get there are some who had mental issues before they hit the street. Some may have eschewed medication others may never have been diagnosed and treated. Most that have mental issues or at least heightened ones, I believe, become that way from substance abuse and the fact they have been living on the street.
In talking with those that have gotten off the street and their lives back on track, I get that being on the street becomes a comfort zone that is difficult to break out of even with fears of being attacked, trying to stay warm and dry, or finding your next meal.
You will come across people from time to time who were scared straight, so to speak, after their families said enough of out-of-control or belligerent behavior and kicked them out who had no place to go. One particular young man I know of who was given the boot when he was 19, spent two nights homeless and after saying he was “scared s - - - less” the entire time, changed his attitude. He didn’t turn into a grown up version of Beaver Cleaver by any means but he certainly toned down the wildness and is supporting himself today.
I do understand the context of the 9th District Court of Appeals rulings regarding the homeless that cities like Manteca are legally bound to follow. You might not like them but the law is the law. On the face they are reasonable as humans — even those who are homeless — have to be able to sleep. And as far as quality of life crimes being next to impossible to enforce unless certain conditions are met, people have to go to the bathroom.
Just like with other issues that a community faces — substance abuse, gangs, speeding, and domestic violence to name a few — we will never eliminate homeless issues but we can work to minimize them and prevent some from becoming homeless who end up on the streets not due to mental illness, substance abuse, and refusing to follow rules but due to hardships such as a loss of jobs and financial issues.
You might be surprised that there are some homeless living on the streets of Manteca as well as in many other cities that go to work every day at jobs that don’t pay enough to keep a roof over their heads.
The problems that cause homelessness and the problems homeless cause are far from one dimensional.
A holistic approach is needed preventing homeless, working with the homeless to get them off the street and standing on their own two feet, and dealing with those homeless that essentially will do as they please regardless at the expense of everyone else and deserve to be dealt with as a criminal.
At the same time solutions such as a homeless navigation center designed to help address homeless issues and there reduce their impact on the overall community should not unfairly place a burden on surrounding businesses.
It is why the City of Manteca as it moves toward establishing a homeless navigation center at the former Qualex building needs to “homeless proof” the rest of the Manteca Industrial Park.
One way to do that is for the city to place wrought iron security fencing as they did at the library within the city right of way behind curbs throughout the business park on the city’s tab.
The fact there are no sidewalks gives Manteca a unique opportunity to put a homeless navigation center in place and to take real steps to avoid the usual blight and crime issues that pop up without running afoul with court rulings.
Such a strategy would prevent homeless that access such a navigation center for services or those that are taken off the street by providing beds so the city can enforce quality of life laws involving the homeless from illegally camping on nearby property or setting up shop in city right-of-way as the only area left after fencing is in place would be the street.
And unless they are sleeping in a vehicle where street parking is allowed the courts are clear the homeless cannot sit, lay or camp on public streets.