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Dangling $$$: Manteca takes prudent pause
Dennis Wyatt

Manteca’s elected leaders need to listen to people like Valarie Ford and Al Moncada and not a tie San Joaquin County homeless czar pulling down $176,000 a year.

The man who makes enough money to keep HOPE Family Shelters operating for almost six months in its now 25-year effort of successfully helping the homeless families from Manteca as well as from nearby Stockton that was unable to meet their needs get off the streets, flippantly dismisses the concerns of the two Manteca residents and several council members that one-time money from the state to address homeless issues could be the proverbial poison apple.

Adam Cheshire rejected such concerns by noting the state isn’t putting hardly any strings on the money. Ford and Moncada know better about accepting a blank check, so to speak, from the state. Perhaps they’ve read how more militant homeless advocates in larger cities have suggested they could make a case that declaring a shelter emergency could provide them enough leverage to go to court to try and overturn anti-camping ordinances.

Neither Ford nor Moncada fall into the “run the homeless out of town” crowd. Nor do they believe the homeless should be given a key to the city.

They are representative of the majority of Manteca that even after expressive growing frustrations get that the community needs to do something. They also happen to live here. This is their community. 

The council on Tuesday opted to postpone a decision until October on whether to declare a shelter emergency — the required precursor for local non-profits applying for a few crumbs of the $7.1 million one-time pie for homeless programs the state is tossing San Joaquin County’s way that Stockton will probably get most of. The vote was 3-2 with council members Gary Singh and Richard Silverman ready to move forward.

The two are relatively comfortable with the risks probably because they realize the language that accompanies the money that allows the fast tracking of emergency shelters for the homeless will not likely translate into an adult shelter opening anytime soon in Manteca especially since such suspensions apply to only shelters proposed for city controlled property.

Both see it as a chance for bare-strings local non-profits working in tandem with the city to address homeless issues to obtain more funds to step up their efforts. The only potential applicants on the horizon are from Love INC working with Inner City Action to provide showers and Community Medical Centers to provide health services for the homeless.

Singh and Silverman — as well as the rest of the council — prefer a pragmatic middle ground approach. One proposal is to create a robust day resource center for the homeless. It’s a balancing act given the perceived extremes of “run ‘em out of town” and those that believe all homeless deserve cuddling.

In order to move towards such a resource center, they need the community onboard.

Manteca in the past 28 months has managed to get more than 200 homeless off the street and either into substance rehab programs, reunited with families, or — in a few cases — directly into employment and securing housing. The effort has enjoyed success because it was able to build on the generational willingness of Manteca residents to open their pocketbooks to assist such endeavors as HOPE Family Shelter, Love INC, various church outreach endeavors, and the Manteca Unified effort to assist homeless youth.

A greater level of comfort could be attained if there was a clearer outline of what non-profits would likely to seek one-time grant money to do. 

And before the council declares a shelter emergency that creates only a short-time frame for grant applications — they are due to the county before the end of November — why not approach and encourage HOPE Family Shelters, Manteca Unified and even the Manteca Police Department to get on board with a commitment to pursue the one-time grants if a shelter emergency is declared.

The fact the council wants a bit more vetting is admirable on a number of levels not of which the least is making sure the state can inflict minimal demands down the road. It doesn’t matter what the state says now, but where it could go. Everything has a risk, including state funding. The council needs to be comfortable with the process before they commit Manteca.

Perhaps high salaried homeless czars don’t have to worry about community reaction and support but the city does.

But to hammer Manteca’s elected leaders, city staff or the community in general about how Manteca is going about addressing homeless issues is a bit rich.

Stockton, where Cheshire spent his time working with the homeless before striking the salary jackpot, had 311 homeless at the last point in time count compared to 78 for Manteca. San Joaquin County had 1,552 based on the count

To replicate Manteca’s progress of getting 200 people off the street Stockton would have had to get 700 plus off the streets in the last 28 months.

Maybe Manteca’s cautious but somewhat innovative approach shows they are on the right track.

And they didn’t need to hire someone for $176,000 to tell them what to do.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.