A few weeks ago, I again went out with Mike Kelly to take a look at how the Manteca Police are handling the homeless situation in Manteca – an effort that is praised by pragmatists that recognize this is a way towards lasting change and panned by short-sighed critics that think bussing them somewhere else is the way to go.
That’s worth a whole separate column by itself, believe me.
But while we made the rounds from camping spot to camping spot, encampment to encampment, Kelly suddenly hit the brakes and turned around for somebody that he recognized walking up the street.
“Do you know her,” he asked – as if I should.
And truthfully, I should have recognized her. I had written a story about her in the past during her better days, but she was unrecognizable from the happy, tearful person that I remember interviewing.
Well, earlier this week she was struck by a car along Highway 99 near Lathrop Road and killed, leaving behind a 3-year-old son that according to press reports, she was anxious to get back to and take care of.
The details of what happened are scarce at the moment, and I’m not quite sure that they’re even relevant for the point of this column – while I know her name, I’m choosing not to use it because it doesn’t do anything but create more hurt in the lives of the people that she touched, and those that were hoping that she could have turned her struggles around and become that smiling person once again.
That’s when the harsh reality set in. Not everything has a happy ending, and when you’re working with people who are struggling with demons in one form or another, not every story is going to end with the person triumphant over whatever is dragging them down.
And it’s a reminder of how terrible some of those demons can be, and how incredibly hard they can be to defeat.
On the day that I saw her, no less than four people tried to help her in what was unfortunately a routine run-in – something that had just become a normal part of the shift, complete with the rebuffs and the refrain that “everything is fine.”
So before making rash comments about how the “homeless” are ruining Manteca (there’s a compelling argument for quality of life issues, no doubt, but come on) stop and think about the individual people that you see and why they may be in the position they find themselves in.
Overcoming addiction is a handicap that few people can fathom until they do it for themselves. And if we all took a step back and showed a little bit of humility, maybe then we could understand the issue a whole lot clearer.
Maybe then, we can get a story with a happy ending.
The ongoing saga of Lathrop Road
So maybe now this will all come to a conclusion.
Last week the Lathrop City Council was supposed to decide on whether or not to move forward with eminent domain proceedings on a 320-square foot piece of property along the south side of Lathrop Road that would allow the city to finally recognize the longstanding goal of making the thoroughfare four lanes.
The only problem is, Councilwoman Martha Salcedo was absent, and that gave the rest of the council the ability to continue the matter without ruffling the feathers of the group that has been outspoken opponents of this project from the very beginning.
But here’s where the problem comes in.
All too often, those on the dais make their decisions based off of the few in the audience that make the most noise and then disappear while it goes against what the rest of the community – the entirety of which they’re sworn to represent – would rather see happen.
I won’t go so far as to suggest any kind of a formal poll, but any good elected official listens to the word on the street and surveys respected members of the community who have the pulse of the city as a whole.
Adraiana Lopez doesn’t want to lose her on-street parking, and she doesn’t want to lose a slice of her front yard that will allow the other 19,000 residents of Lathrop to travel freely along a road that will ultimately carry a large volume of traffic between I-5 and Highway 99. That’s understandable, and no homeowner ever wants somebody to come in and tell them that the idyllic configuration they’ve come to love and appreciate is going away. But by the same token, the project has been something the city has been planning for years. A simple visit to see what the long-term plan for Lathrop Road was going to be – as Manteca spent million on an interchange at Highway 99, and the City of Lathrop spent even more on a pair of at-grade crossings over Union Pacific railroad tracks to allow traffic to flow freely – could have very prudent here.
And misinformation is rampant. When word of the City of Lathrop using eminent domain to acquire property hit Facebook by some in the tinfoil hat crowd, the insinuations started flying – wrongly, and with no understanding as to what was on the table – and helped give off an impression that more people are against the project than are for it.
Not long ago that same council, before a packed house of people who were dead set against the idea of a Flying J Travel Plaza coming to town, voted based on what was best for the city and its long-term financial future. That decision led to a petition and an attempt at Mayor Sonny Dhalwial’s seat, but the council stood firm and will soon be reaping the tax benefits that go along with having foresight and a backbone.
I just hope that’s the council that shows up on Monday, and they aren’t dissuaded by the loud voices that are trying to drown out the support from the larger population of the City of Lathrop.
Nobody said that progress was easy.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.