Manteca is not going to solve the homeless problem.
What the community can do is make the situation as palatable as possible for Manteca as well as the homeless.
That is why the city needs to take the lead and work with non-profits to make a day center for the homeless a reality.
Understand a day center for the homeless is not a panacea. That said if it is operated correctly it should be able to improve the situation as well as help keep a lid on it from getting worse.
Today, let’s examine the concept of a day center for the homeless.
What should a day center have?
uA resource center that provides access to services that the homeless can use such as health care, employment assistance, and such.
This re-enforces the city’s outreach effort with the two community resource officers dedicated to working with the homeless.
uShowers and toilets.
This gives the homeless a place they can go to get clean. It also could help reduce the daily deposits that homeless leave around commercial areas requiring merchants to clean up before starting their day. Not only can the homeless feel more human but they also won’t draw attention to themselves as they make their way around town whether it’s by being unkempt or smelly.
uA place where belongings can be stored and retrieved when needed as opposed to stashing them around town or pilfering shopping carts and such to push them around Manteca.
This can reduce a blight issue while at the same time protect the belongings of homeless from theft. And by giving the homeless a place to store their stuff, it eliminates a visual trigger that prompts some to contend the homeless situation is worse than it is.
uA place where the homeless can hang out during the day.
There’s nothing illegal about the homeless hanging out in a park, but a day center could easily accommodate other diversions such as cards as well as providing access to resources that can help them change their lot in life.
uIt could also serve also as a central location for the public that is so inclined to help to learn about organizations assisting the homeless and what they need in terms of funds, in-kind donations and volunteer help.
What better way for the public to find out what is available for the homeless and what they can do to assist if they wish as well as become better educated about things they might be doing that may be detrimental to efforts to help the homeless.
uIt would have the ability to serve at least one meal a day.
It not only would provide the homeless with one meal a day but it could alleviate the need for Good Samaritans to give food to the homeless, panhandlers and such that too often frees up money they receive from general assistance, disability, and/or what Social Security they may have qualified to receive to go toward the purchase of alcohol and/or drugs.
uInclude an area for napping.
There are a number of homeless that don’t feel safe sleeping on the streets at night for the same reason you and I wouldn’t feel safe doing so. They catch their shut eye sleeping in the day in parks, next to buildings, and other places. Again would it be better if they have a place to nap during the day or to catch sleep wherever the can.
The drawback of a day center would be the possibility the homeless would congregate for the most part in the same general area such as happens at the Stockton shelter and St. Mary’s Dining Room.
However, when the homeless were being fed weekly BBQ on Moffat Boulevard it did not ratchet up the homeless lingering in nearby neighborhoods.
That said he city has a way they can accentuate all of the positives a day center could provide and minimize the negatives.
It involves leasing the former municipal vehicle maintenance building on Wetmore Street next to the animal shelter to a non-profit for use as a day center.
The city as landlord would be able to exert some control over the situation including the ultimate — if things don’t go well the city simply doesn’t renew the lease.
Granted it is more complicated than that, but having such a partnership will put pressure on both sides to make sure the day center works.
Manteca’s financial commitment to the day center could be minimal. Besides leasing it for a $1 a year instead of what market value it may have, the city might stub off more water and sewer lines so the facilities for bathrooms so they could be expanded by a non-profit. The city might also make 96-gallon waste carts available as storage bins for the homeless as is done in similar operations in Southern California.
Another advantage of the city leasing its building for a day center is the city has control over where it would go. Not only is it in an industrial park but it’s not next door to a private concern and is a decent distance from housing and commercial. It also is located near “hiding places” for night time sleeping. Homeless sleeping areas behind the oleanders near the Yosemite Avenue train crossing, the space between the Bank of America and shuttered Kelly Brothers Brewing Co., and areas hidden in Spreckels Park and elsewhere are nearby.
The goal is not to coddle or to demonize. Nor is it to create a magnet.
It is to make the best of the situation by adhering to court rulings while not abdicating the quality of life in Manteca.
The homeless dilemma calls for pragmatic and workable solutions before the homeless problems become chronic and entrenched to allow cancerous blight to spread.
IN FRIDAY’S BULLETIN: Get rid of the de facto Motel 6 locations for the homeless.