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Embracing Mantecas homeless
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Too bad satirist Jonathan Swift isn’t alive today and on the Manteca City Council.

Instead of simply talking a good game and leaving it up to the staff to come up with solutions, Swift would come up with innovative ways – a modest proposal, if you will – to solve the problems.

He’d start with the homeless.

Now that the city’s solution to make Library Park more friendly to those citizens with a roof over their heads was to lock the restrooms and scatter the homeless and the druggies (they are not one in the same most of the time) to the four winds, Manteca has become the City of the Free Range Homeless.

You’ve seen them. They wander in and out of traffic without looking. They cross on red lights. They push pilfered shopping carts laden with essentials past Shasta School. They catch naps behind bushes along the Spreckels Avenue Bikeway, try to make little homeless people underneath a dirty blanket in the Cotta Park storm basin, park themselves for hours at a time on the side of convenience stores and gas stations, ride their bicycles pulling overloaded makeshift carts down sidewalks, and convert commercial cardboard recycling bins into impromptu toilets.

Since the city obviously is in no rush to bring people together to define the concerns and brainstorm solutions let alone actually do something to improve the situation, then it’s time to embrace the homeless.

First, the city needs to spend some money and buy a bunch of yellow signs similar to the ones that have the symbols of people walking to alert motorists they are approaching pedestrian crossings. But instead of pedestrians, they need to make a universal sign for free range homeless – with a man pushing a shopping cart crammed with junk. They can be placed along Main Street and Yosemite Avenue to warn motorists that the homeless can dart in front of them at any second just like similar signs showing a family of illegals running across Interstate 5 near the border.

Since the homeless wander the streets at all hours of the day and night, the city could deputize them as water cops. Besides having the power to write citations for water wasters and those violating watering rules, they can get a quick shower at the same time.

And if the drought conditions get worse in the coming years, they could be retained by the Public Works Department to show city residents places around Manteca they can take a dump if it gets to the point there isn’t enough water to flush toilets.

The city could also press them into service as ambassadors.

If Great Wolf Resort ends up building in Manteca, the city could retain the homeless to make cardboard signs that they can “fly” at the Airport Way interchange, the future interchange at McKinley Avenue and along Daniels Street to direct people to the 500-room hotel.

Instead of rousting the homeless out of makeshift shelters they create among vegetation along the 120 Bypass they could encourage more homeless to set up shop with the proviso that when they have to tinkle they do so by watering the $1 million worth of trees and shrubs put in place with federal stimulus money.

Instead of profiling them as a group of people who have a tendency to commit petty thefts and violate quality of life laws, the police could press them into service to educate people not to become crime victims. The police could print postcards the homeless could leave in mailboxes whenever they steal something left on a porch; from a yard, front or back; from a garage where the door has been left open; or items from inside a vehicle. The cards could read, “Greetings, Manteca resident. The police warned you about securing your homes better so people like me wouldn’t steal your things. It’s your lucky day. I’m one of those people and I thank you for the bicycle I can ride and the tools I can sell. Thanks again, and keep leaving valuables out in plain sight for easy pickings for folks like me.”

Of course, there are those who believe the homeless create an image problem for the city. No problem. Just hire a consultant to put a spin on it.

Pay a firm $150,000 to come up with a marketing strategy and you won’t have to make a difficult decision on whether to open a day drop-in center to help the homeless who want to get back on their feet and reduce the problem, 

The consultant could do phone surveys. He might discover, for example, that people will bond with the homeless if it’s something they can romanticize about.

That could lead to a “Leave it to Beaver” approach and the city issuing edicts to police and staff to no longer call them “homeless” but refer to them as “hobos.” The mere word conjures up a softer image of guys who just want to be free, harmlessly wandering around the countryside, pilfering cigarette butts that can still be smoked, hopping trains and being more like adult scamps than criminals.

The city could encourage converting either the Pumpkin Fair or Crossroads Street Faire into Hobo Days.

Manteca could celebrate the homeless by marketing them as hobos and encourage visitors to stop by Manteca’s Hobo Festival and enjoy people wandering the streets in authentic hobo garb while they forge for handouts, look for places to defecate, and push their overflowing stolen shopping carts around Manteca.

The City Council could then change the city motto and declare the homeless problem solved.

And that new city motto could by flashed from the cutting-edge high-tech electronic billboard that eventually will go up along the 120 Bypass in front of The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.

“Welcome to Manteca: The Homeless City.”

The motto definitely would get bonus points for truth in advertising.


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.