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Manteca, state need to make a $1 deal work for Inner City Action building plam
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It doesn’t require an act of Congress to improve the Manteca homeless situation. All that is needed is an act of the California Legislature.

Inner City Action has just completed a 25-day “homeless tent revival” in the parking lot of the former Qualex building that once housed a division of Kodak’s film processing operations on Industrial Park Drive.

From Jan. 12 through Feb. 17 they had 366 unsheltered individuals pass through their gates and into the temporary homeless resource center compound. Of those, 243 were male and 123 female. They had 308 homeless individuals take showers and 73 receive haircuts. Each day they served 30 to 50 breakfasts, 50 to 77 lunches, and 40 to 60 dinners.

You might think this is “cuddling” the homeless with the intent to make it easier for them to live on the streets. That’s not exactly what Inner City Action is all about.

It was about building relationships, trust, and — when the time comes — opening doors needed to help the homeless leave the streets.

Those showers, meals, haircuts, and the fact there was a place for the homeless to go allowed Inner City Action during those 25 days to get 23 people off the street and into rehab programs and/or shelter including three children.

Pastor Frank and Kim Saldana — the heart and soul of Inner City Action along with a strong faith in God — founded the outreach in Manteca in 1996 to “bring life back to the people.” Inner City Action has an impressive track record in Stockton as well.

The couple asked the Manteca City Council on Tuesday for a chance to buy the Qualex building that the oversight agency overseeing the wind down of the Manteca Redevelopment Agency (RDA) is mandated to auction off under state law and split the proceeds between the state, the City of Manteca, Manteca Unified School District, Delta College, and several other taxing agencies.

Inner City Action wants to establish a resource center inside the 55,000-square-fooot Qualex building. The odds are the building could cost them in excess of $1 million or more. It is money from benefactors, quite frankly, that would be better spent on remodeling the building for their needs and providing outreach services to continue to rescue people from the street.

Although some will split hairs, the RDA for all practical purposes exists because local money — read that taxes paid by Manteca property owners within the agency boundaries — the original $3.6 million purchase possible back in 2006 when the City Council acting as the RDA board acquired the property with the intent of making it into a new police station.

When then Gov. Jerry Brown pulled the plug on RDA agencies up and down California during the budget crisis to essentially help save state bureaucratic jobs, RDA property not committed to a viable project that was moving forward at the time has to be auctioned off and proceeds split between taxing agencies. That was mandated in a law passed by the California Legislature.

The state meanwhile is spending hundreds of millions to address homeless issues of which most ends up in the Los Angeles Basin and the San Francisco Bay Area. At the same time the city, school district, and Delta College are all struggling with their own set of homeless issues.

City Manager Tim Ogden lacks the legal authority to ultimately block the auction as does the Manteca City Council.

That said the California Legislature can — and should — exercise its authority to stop the auction. It is why instead someone has to pick up the phone — Mayor Ben Cantu, Frank Saldana, or the city manager — and call Assemblyman Heath Flora and State Senator Cathleen Galgiana to see if they’d be willing to introduce legislation allowing the Manteca RDA oversight board to transfer ownership of the property at 555 Industrial Park Drive to Inner City Action for $1 with a deed restriction if it ceases to be used as a homeless resource center the property must be sold and the proceeds split between the taxing agencies.

State leaders contend addressing homeless issues are among their top priorities. Inner City Action offers a proven solution and Manteca civic leaders are on board.

It makes no sense to not only risk that the property slips away at auction but that the property taxpayers of this city who are within the RDA boundaries will take a financial bloodbath of several million dollars and the community has nothing to show for the expenditure  of their hard earned dollars.

The government — in this case an oversight board that exists at the pleasure of the state – has control of an asset that could make significant and meaningful inroads into homeless issues in Manteca.

Instead of putting the property that has been shuttered since the 1990s out to the highest bidder and either getting significantly less than what taxpayers paid for it or requiring a non-profit that works with the homeless to sink significant funds to buy it and then spend more money remodeling, why not put the property to work for the community?

There were no major issues that came up when Inner City Action operated at the Qualex site. Nor were there any major issues when Inner City Action served homeless meals once a week at a Moffat Boulevard location over a two-year period or over weekly showers for the homeless at various locations throughout Manteca.

And while Inner City may indeed be the highest bidder and raise enough money to buy the Qualex structure, that money would be better spent remodeling the structure as needed to serve as a homeless resource center and funding direct services for the homeless.

Manteca’s effort so far through the dedication of two community resource officers to homeless issues has managed to get more than 220 people off the streets in 32 months.

This is the low hanging fruit, so to speak. That’s roughly one homeless person every four days that were placed in rehab programs and/or housing or reunited with family. Most, but not all, have stayed off the street.

The more intense approach the Inner City Action effort used was able to get one person essentially every day off the street. It is the result of having the resource center that allows a direct connection to those that can assist those willing to get off the street and the ability to build trust and working relationships.

Establishing a resource center won’t lead to the end of homeless issues. But what it can do is not only provide a way for people to get off the streets but to avoid becoming homeless in the first place.

Assuming the city can enlist the help of state leaders to help Inner City Action to move forward, perhaps another “homeless tent revival” can take place this spring at the Qualex site with state leaders invited to drop by and see the impact it is having.

If Inner City Action can secure the property for $1 with the caveat that ownership is revoked if it ever stops being a homeless resource center, that is all the more resources the non-profit can dedicate to rescuing people while at the same time address quality of life crimes plaguing Manteca committed by those who are homeless and are simply trying to survive on the streets.