The homeless aren’t “occupying” Library Park as they used to do.
It’s because what the City of Manteca is doing via its community resource officers is working.
Not only are the officers helping steer homeless who are ready to get off the streets to agencies that will help and working to reunite them with families but they have helped set up general ground rules by consensus that reasonable people — homeless and otherwise — can agree to.
As an example, the Lincoln Park Community Picnic Shelter is seeing more and more homeless not just hanging out during the day but also at night long after the park is legally closed. They cook food on the BBQs and simply kill time. You can see them there almost nightly even as late as 2 a.m. When people are around such as for picnic gatherings and such, almost all the homeless make themselves scarce.
Such self-governing protocols that are in place minimize friction between the housed and unhoused city residents. Save for some recent grief-triggered graffiti following the unfortunate death of a 28-year-old on the nearby railroad tracks, the homeless rarely create problems that draw attention to them in the adjoining Lincoln Park neighborhood known as Powers Tract.
There is nothing illegal about a person whether they are homeless or not hanging around a park as long as everyone follows the rules. And whether small transgressions of the law trigger a cry and hue for enforcement has a lot to do with the concepts of critical mass and not drawing attention to one’s self.
Let’s be honest here. There have always been homeless. There is no move afoot by anyone to sweep Manteca clean of homeless. And no one has opened the doors, so to speak, and invited homeless from other communities to flock here. It is why the babbling on social media about Manteca being “this” or “that” when it comes to the homeless is either gibberish, disingenuous, or blogged by someone who not only has never stepped foot in Manteca but likely have no clue where it is located.
The attacks on Manteca range from this being a heartless place for the homeless to the city cuddling the homeless is background noise fed by myopic views unblemished by reality, limited vantage points, or both.
A woman recently commented how I seemed to hate the homeless based on the fact I am not in favor of a homeless shelter for men.
I asked where she lived. She said it doesn’t matter.
Sorry, but it does.
I’m always amazed at the number of people who believe it is a smart solution to locate a homeless shelter for single men along Moffat Boulevard. There rationale for Moffat almost always hinges on comments saying “that is where the homeless are” to its “an appropriate area.”
I usually ask whether they’d like a homeless shelter within three blocks of their teen daughter’s high school or within five blocks of their 8 year-old son’s elementary school. They act as if is an absurd question inferring that never happens in “real” life. But if you place a homeless shelter along Moffat that is exactly what would happen in real life.
And if it makes sense to place a single adult homeless shelter on Moffat because it is an area where the homeless gravitate, then that makes Atherton Drive near the Paseo Villas an ideal location for a homeless shelter given at times there have been as many as 20 homeless camping along the nearby 120 Bypass sound walls.
The truth is a lot of people that are demanding the city do more for the homeless don’t want the homeless in their neighborhoods, near their schools, or sleeping in front of their local 24 hour convenience store at night.
I happen to live in Powers Tract. The homeless are currently gathering next door to Lincoln School as well as Manteca High and sometimes even bed down at night on school property thanks to the high school campus being sliced in half by Garfield Avenue. Some do seek shelter at night in front of convenience stores not to beg but to feel or be safe.
For years they fed the homeless once a week less than three blocks from my home. Homeless sleep in their cars by Lincoln Park along Powers Avenue or across the street in the city parking lot by the fire station.
To be honest, 90 percent of them don’t create any type of problems other than violating the park curfew. Perhaps 5 percent contribute significantly to trash problems beyond a typical litter bug and other issues. And, yes, there are troublemakers whether they are substance abusers that cross the line, mentally ill or just plain jerks.
That underscores that life is about choices even if you live on the street. You can strive to get along or you can abuse substances and abuse others. Funny, but it’s the same general reasons why the vast majority are homeless — the choices they made, the substances they abuse, or the fact they don’t want to follow any ground rules.
Manteca’s homeless effort is anchored in reality. It is neither cold-hearted nor is it rolling out the red carpet.