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Manteca needs to build on its 41 percent reduction in homeless over past 3 years
homeless 2019
Workers retrieve bicycles and trash from an illegal homeless encampment on the northwest corner of the Austin Road and Highway 99 interchange in 2019. There were nearly 40 homeless living in the area at the time.


It means just that.


So why with homeless being the most politically charged issue in Manteca city politics, why wasn’t anyone in a position of authority talking publicly about the latest point in time homeless count for San Joaquin County?

The count was conducted in January and then analyzed.

Its official publication/release date was June 15.

That was 41 days ago.

To be honest, it doesn’t make sense keeping it under wraps.

The City of Manteca should have been blowing its own horn.

A 41 percent drop in the official homeless count is epic.

It demonstrates something right is going on in Manteca.

If it wasn’t openly celebrated by the city due to a fear people might think a more robust navigation center that can do double duty as a place where people can turn to for help to prevent from becoming homeless isn’t needed because the numbers are dropping, they really need to step up their communication with the public.

Manteca, nor any other jurisdiction for that matter, will never eliminate homelessness.

Success is when a city can first, stop it from getting worse. Second, chip away at the numbers on the street. And third, work with people to prevent them from becoming homeless.

All three goals besides having a resource center for the homeless or the on-the-verge of being homeless to access organizations and services that can help them, might require what Ron Laffranchi — HOPE Shelter board member and former planning commissioner — suggests which is a substance abuse treatment center situated in Manteca and not a 20 mile drive elsewhere.

But in order to take things to the next level of success, the city needs to lay a solid foundation. This is where the navigation center comes in to play.

It is not the end all. It is the foundation.

It is where a multi-faceted effort can take root.

*Working with people who are ready to get off the streets.

*Setting the stage for more aggressive police enforcement of anti-camping laws in the perimeters allowed by the 9th District Court of Appeals of those who aren’t willing to try and get back on their feet and off  the streets.

*Helping people avoid ending up on the streets.

Tracy, it should be noted, scored a 20 percent reduction in homeless between 2019 and 2022. Stockton dropped slightly to 3 percent and Lodi jumped by 50 percent.

Manteca and Tracy have both endeavored to maximize their ability under the law and with available resources to go after illegal encampments. That involves properly posting homeless encampments and coordinating where needed with Caltrans.

Tracy in that aspect has it easier as they only have to coordinate with the Tracy Caltrans office. Manteca has to coordinate with maintenance offices in Tracy, Stockton and Modesto

Tracy’s area goes to the end of the 120 Bypass, Stockton’s area goes south on Highway 99 to the 120 Bypass, and Modesto’s area goes north to the 120 Bypass on Highway 99.

It is akin to playing whack a mole.

There are efforts in Tracy working to get the homeless off the street but not to the level it is in Manteca.

Key to Manteca’s effort that other jurisdictions are now seeking to copy is the commitment to two full-time resource police officers to homeless issues. Due to the need for the right type of person and the demand for trained police officers, Manteca for most of the past five years has had only one of its two positioned filled.

Equally important has been the partnership with Inner City Action.

Inner City, unlike the brief period the city contracted with Turlock Gospel Rescue Mission to oversee the emergency tent shelter, consistently and firmly makes the rounds building up trust to draw homeless to the shelter not simply to fill a bed but to get them on a path off the streets.

Is it 100 percent effective? No.

Is it the most effective approach? Yes.

The only accounting for the big difference between Tracy and Manteca’s respective success at reducing the ranks of the homeless is the outreach effort to connect with the homeless.

Call it “Navigation Center Lite”, if you will.

It is why Manteca has opted not to go with the drop-in shelter approach that Stockton and Lodi have that has resulted in little change in three years or, in Lodi’s case, a 50 percent jump in homeless numbers.

The navigation center model Manteca is pushing eschews the homeless from simply dropping in for a bed, a meal, to access free clothing, or to take a shower among other things.

Under the model, when police tell homeless sleeping on sidewalks they have to move they can give them an option of being taken to the navigation center with its rules or simply move on.

Ideally the repeat process either wears holdouts down or prompts them to seek out cities that haven’t committed the resources to legally turn up the pressure on the homeless.

And while the city could do that now with the tent shelter, it makes more sense to have a center that has the ability to work with the homeless to address the root cause of them being homeless so they don’t return to the streets or simply continue being nomads on the streets.

The city, to make sure promises are kept to the community and that tax dollars regardless of the source are wisely and effectively spent, needs to adopt Mike Morowit’s suggestion and form a Manteca Homeless Advisory Committee.

Morowit is a former council member who saw the limited folly in having only one officer instead of two committed to the homeless. He is also seeking election Nov. 8 to represent District 1 on the City Council.

Councilman Gary Singh agrees with such an advisory committee with one important change. It is formed after the first official shovel of dirt is turned on the navigation center.

That is because there is not a need to rehash the debate of the past seven years again given the council has made a decision.

The committee is needed to make sure things are done right and to provide an essential sounding board for the community and the homeless that can’t be done within the constraints of a three-minute time limit for speakers.

It would keep community concerns addressed.

Ideally it would be a one-stop community go-to committee that meets four to six times a year. It would aloo have a representative of every municipal department and allied services that deal with the homeless on hand to answer questions, explain operations, and listen to concerns and then address them.
Manteca need to build on the momentum of a 41 percent drop in homeless with a goal of working to put a lid on it to keep it below 70 at all times.

That would be a major victory.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at