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Nov. 8 mayoral election: Weathervane for how Manteca deals with homeless
homeless guy
The man who started the ball rolling on the homeless navigation center solution, Robert Schuknecht, is shown in this April 29, 2016 photo talking with a Manteca Police officer on the sidewalk near McDonald’s on East Yosemite Avenue.

There are 161,548 homeless in California

For anyone counting, that’s almost the combined population of Manteca (88,000) and Tracy (92,000).

Sacramento has finally eclipsed San Francisco.

There are 5,000 homeless in Sacramento.

San Francisco is at 4,400.

That is based on the last point in time count in January.

More than 40 percent of the state’s homeless — 69,144 — are in Los Angeles County.

Of those, 41,980 are in the City of Angels.

Just numbers, right?

That is 161,548 people.

And not to sugarcoat it, more than a few of them pose problems.

Serious problems.

And not just to themselves.

Two things are clear.

We can’t go on like this.

And we can’t let it keep getting worse.

It is growing clear what tolerance we have is growing thin.

Mayors of California’s biggest cities are backing off.

Backing off of a “hands off” approach to homeless essentially being free range.

They are pushing for clearing out the most egregious, high profile encampments.

They are getting behind laws that prohibit encampments near schools, day  care centers and other such locations.

These are mayors who describe themselves as liberals.

They are also the ones that are championing not just more homeless shelters, but also “forced” mental health care.

They are walking three tight ropes simultaneously.

There’s the one the 9th District court has created.

Then there is the one of public opinion.

But the one that’s the most perilous is the one the hardcore homeless advocates keep pulling on.

They want absolutes.

As in absolute rights for the homeless.

This is the reason why California seems to have hit the proverbial iceberg.

As such, the state is taking on homeless like the Titanic took on  water.

Yes,  housing prices, the high cost of living, and the perennial shortage of adequate housing are causes.

They are  causes that kept unchecked spread like cancer.

Yes, we’re talking about living, breathing human beings.

Comparing them to cancer seems inhumane.

But without adequate treatment that is aggressive and consistent, homelessness spreads like cancer.

It is indeed a tall order.

Now, however, there is a new wrinkle.

Those fed up with the uncivilized behavior of the homeless are pushing back.

And that doesn’t mean pushing back by the usual rhetoric or wild-eyed and irresponsible suggestions of running them out of town.

They are now adopting the playbook of the hardcore homeless advocates.

Simply put, they are using the system to torpedo efforts by those in power to keeping looking the other way when homeless issues become a tad  too challenging between court orders, the law, humane considerations, and the incessant hammering of the hardcore homeless advocates.

And they are doing so by suing on behalf of the victims.

The victims, in this case, are what might be described as de facto government policies that have created free range homeless.

In Portland — a city that makes San Francisco seem intolerant by comparison — a group of handicapped individuals have filed a class-action lawsuit against that city.

In a nutshell, that city’s failure to not keep sidewalks clear for passage of those with handicaps is an egregious violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Anyone in Manteca who was targeted by ADA lawsuits on the flimsiest premise gets how ruthless the legal system can be to targets of such legal maneuvers.

Time may tell, but it is likely neither the homeless or those with disabilities will prevail in an absolute manner.

One might view the homeless quagmire of government ineptness.

And it might be fairly on mark given follow though requires a strong spine against those that — figurately speaking — shoot first without trying to get the lay of the land.

But here’s the problem.

Such a mindset doesn’t solve anything.

Do nothing to chip away at — or at least keep the problem from growing — solves nothing.

In the worst case scenario, we just end up with even more homeless and even more homeless relates blight on our neighborhoods, our communities, and our cities.

In the best case scenario, what you see is what you get from this time forward.

Which brings us to the dilemma facing Manteca voters.

What type of message do they want to send city leaders on Nov. 8?

No one in their right mind should favor action — or up inaction — that basically gives the homeless the proverbial keys to the city.

Nor would they want a course of action — or inaction — that maintains the status quo or allows it to get worst.

If a properly — and tightly — run homeless navigation center that is not a drop-in shelter whose construction is fully funded on  the state’s dime and not from local coffers is the answer, then what cost do we incur by delaying it or rejecting it?

The hardcore homeless advocates would argue lives would be lost — figurately and literally — among the homeless.

But the real loss is the quality of life of the entire City of Manteca degenerating.

Some may say it already has.

But left untreated — just like cancer — it will spread until it robs a neighborhood, a community or city of life.

When we vote for mayor, it may not change the course of events set in motion regarding the homeless navigation center or anything else Manteca is doing regarding the homeless.

One can’t forget the guillotine awaiting Manteca if it goes back on its settlement of the class action lawsuit brought by of Robert Schuknecht and three other homeless men contending the city was violating their civil rights to avoid a multi-million dollar payout that still would require the city to tow the line dictated by a judge.

Manteca got out of that predicament paying the four homeless men $47,000 in addition to a legal bill of $30,000.

That is what put in motion the Manteca Police homeless resource officer and the other city protocols now in place regarding homeless issues.

There are clear choices in the tone Manteca takes at the ballot box.

And that tone may very well make or break the effectiveness of Manteca’s effort to improve the city’s homeless problems.


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