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Close encounters after dark with Darth Vader plus, other homeless on Manteca’s streets
homeless dark
A homeless man moving about on a street at night in Evansville, Indiana, a city of 116,486.

Darth Vader lives.

And that should make you extra cautions.

If that sounds a bit strange, then you haven’t experienced Manteca after dark.

We’re not talking just after the sun goes down. We’re talking in the wee hours of the morning. That’s when traffic levels on city streets are a throwback to high noon in 1904.

It’s a time right before — or after — the bars close.

The first wave of commuters are starting to stir, with some filling up with gas.

Bet the man who wore the Texaco star back in 1970  would be stunned to discover people can now pump gas after stations close and do so without an attendant or having to lure them with a  free drinking glass plus a page of Blue Chip stamps for every eight gallons of 45 cents a gallon gas they bought.

Those heading home besides those that are “termed out” of bars with the last call, or a handful of people heading home from their workplace. Count me among them the latter.

Rare is the night that the homeless aren’t out and about.

A lot of them are sleeping but more than a few are wide awake and walking the streets for various reasons.

One reason that some homeless have shared over the years is that they prefer sleeping during the day because they believe it is safer.

Given I work  near Morezone Park and behind Kaiser, have to drive through downtown and the Moffat corridor to go to and from work, and live in Powers Tract near Spreckels Park BMX track and the 120/99 interchange — I pass through three areas that feature the highest concentration of homeless in Manteca.

It helps explain at the one time you can drive down the streets at the speed limit I usually do so slightly under the speed limit because you never know if homeless will step into the street from out of the shadows or — along segments of Powers Avenue and even Yosemite Avenue — be walking in the middle  of the travel lane.

And they do so away from well-lighted areas while wearing the darkest clothing possible.

I get that they don’t want to be seen. Blending into the darkness of the cityscape invites less attention.

But the homeless that have a concern for their lives ride bicycles with lights and/or reflectors at night. There are more than a few — bicyclists and pedestrians that are homeless — who also will wear reflective orange vests when they are moving about on city streets.

 The reason is simple. They likely have had more than a few close encounters.

I know I have. I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’m driving at 2 a.m. along poorky lit section of a street such as on parts of Yosemite Avenue when all of a sudden I’m passing a homeless person dressed in dark clothes making their way down the street right on  top of the travel lane within a foot or so of passing vehicles.

To be honest, I thought I’d seen everything.

Four incidents in the past month made me realize that was wishful thinking.

I have no desire to strike someone — homeless or not — with my car and either injure them or, worse yet, kill them. I also doubt that is not what any homeless person wants either.

Yet you’ve got to wonder.

I’ll start with Darth Vader.

I was preparing to pull out of a driveway at 2 a.m. on a poorly lit section of Union Road to make a right hand turn. I looked both ways. As I started to turn, a homeless individual cloaked in dark clothes that included a hoodie and trench coat suddenly started running across Union from my left.

He apparently had ran out from behind a building. I saw him enter the street perhaps 10 feet to my left as I glanced left for the second time as I was making the turn.

There were no cars on my first look. There were no cars  on my second look. But the fact a dark figure suddenly came running across my field of vision prompted me to hit the brakes even though I quickly determined they were traveling at a diagonal across the street and not into my path.

Another incident from several weeks ago was after securing one of my vices — a mocha chip Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

It was around 8:30 p.m. heading north of Main Street just before the left turn pocket to Wawona Street.

All of a  sudden two homeless individuals  came into view  on the peripheral running into the shrubs of the landscaped median. My passenger saw them at the same time I did.

I hit the brakes hard out of fear they would run into the southbound lanes at the same time the passenger saw them and told me to look out.

The man closest to me stopped, the other didn’t. The first guy grabbed the other man to try and pull him  out of the lane but didn’t succeed. Fortunately, I was going 5 miles or so below the speed limit or I would have struck him.

The third incident involved traveling home at 1:30 a.m. on East Yosemite Avenue as I was passing Lincoln School.

A homeless individual — dressed in dark clothes — was zigzagging on a bicycle across the middle turn lane in and out of both travel lanes. He did not have a reflector on the bike that was painted a dark color. Nor did he have a light.

I had to swerve to miss clipping him.

I looked in my rearview mirror seconds later. He was still making wide zig-zag movements oblivious to the fact he almost had been struck.

The last encounter was the scariest.

It was on the stretch of Powers Avenue by Lincoln School around 2 a.m. I heard a lawn mower like sound, Coming at me — with no lights on — was a homeless person on what appeared to be a homemade electric bicycle. He had cut across from the west side of the street and was heading to the east side.

I was unable to make him out until  he was over the middle lane. I wasn’t super close to him but given the darkness and if I had been driving just a bit faster it would have been a different story.


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