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One homeless man equates Manteca plan for Sprung Structure use to a concentration camp
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A Sprung Structure in use as a homeless shelter in San Diego.

Norman J. Moore takes a dim view of the City of Manteca’s plan to secure $2 million plus in pass thru state grants to secure two Sprung Structures for the use as a warming center this winter to help being up to 100 homeless in from the cold.

He is also less than thrilled about the Turlock Gospel Mission being the likely organization to run the warming center.

Why should you take note of what Moore thinks? It’s not because he’s vows to run as a write-in candidate for the Manteca City Council in the Nov. 3. Moore has been homeless and living on Manteca streets for more than four years.

In correspondence he equates the Spring Structures that would have an open room with 50 beds each with Japanese internment camps such as the one in Inyo County during World War II or concentration camps where the Nazis shipped Jewish people.

“The next step is to load them into box cars and ship them to Auschwitz, I mean French Camp,” Moore writes of how he views Manteca’s homeless proposal. “The first thing we will do is give them a shower.”

Hyperbole aside, Moore’s comments clearly underscore a huge and arguably insurmountable obstacle in dealing with a good portion of the homeless on Manteca’s streets or anywhere else. They likely won’t embrace the city’s solutions no matter how reasonable they seem.

City leaders have always known this. It is why even in their wildest dreams some city leaders optimistically coincide it would be a victory if the homeless numbers in Manteca are halved by 2030 or if they stay constant at what they are today as the city grows.

The harshest critics of any effort the city takes may argue that the words Moore penned is proof positive that Manteca is wasting tax dollars spent on trying to help the homeless get off the street. Unfortunately their solution is either to “run them out of town” or to throw them in jail every time the homeless take actions to stay alive — illegal encampments, defecating in public, sleeping on a sidewalk where and during times it is not permitted, stealing, and other acts — that break the law.

The zero tolerance only approach doesn’t fly in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, New Mexico, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii. The reason that is an absolute has everything to do with the law. The 9th District Court of Appeals has made it clear what jurisdictions can and cannot do when it comes to enforcing the laws involving the homeless when it comes to basic human needs to stay alive.

And while some cities inadvertently or on purpose decide to conduct their dealings with the homeless in a manner that can best be described for what it is — breaking the law — Manteca is not trampling on the constitution and writing its own rules given it would put them on the same playing field as anarchists as well as agitators on the left and the right across our country today.

Besides the approach of arresting the homeless for every infraction is costing taxpayers more than $2,000 a hit each time in booking and court costs for what is bascially a catch and release procedure without being able to change the behavior.

The solution requires a pragmatic approach that concedes from the start not all homeless can be helped. There needs to be a willingness when 9th District Court requirements are satisfied to turn the pressure up where you will indeed make it so uncomfortable for the hardcore homeless that play by their own rules that they will opt to leave Manteca. But under the law that means Manteca has to have a homeless shelter that can provide beds for between 200 and 300 people a night. That is a long ways off assuming the community can ever stomach such a solution.

There is good news in Moore’s observations that shows he is on the same page as city leaders when it comes to the path that will lead to the best outcome for everyone.

“Beds, beds, we don’t need a bed, we need a job,” Moore writes. “That’s my idea, Miranda (City Manager Miranda Lutzow). Put them to work. My plan is to perhaps build a completely new building on the Qualex property, a permanent structure to our specification and needs.”

A homeless navigation center — the foundation for a holistic approach to addressing the homeless and homeless prevention Manteca is pursuing — is designed to make the homeless employable and help them to be able to house themselves.

While some can, the overwhelming majority of the homeless can’t simply pop up at a job fair or go to the equivalent of a day labor center as Moore suggests and go to work.

Substance abuse issues may need to be addressed. Work ethic skills need to be taught or sharpened. Proper ID is needed before employers can legally hire people. Medical issues need to be addressed. Resume writing and proper clothing for interviews and eventually work when they secure it is needed. Help is needed to obtainhousing so they can be stable enough to keep reporting to work.

Those are just some of the issues that a homeless navigation center is designed to do.

If it was as simple as Moore contends it is, Manteca would have opened a day labor office for the homeless years ago.

And, yes, a successful navigation center needs “intake housing or beds” as homeless are transitioned from the street into treatment programs or housing. Those beds aren’t drop-in beds per se but are for those truly committed to a path off the streets.

The 218 plus drop-in shelter Manteca based on the last point in time count needed to satisfy the 9th District requirements for a legal “crack down” on the homeless is a separate issue. It is clear such a shelter is needed to satisfy the demands of those that want homeless run out of town or arrested for renegade behavior as defined by a civilized society.

The navigation center is the best possible move to set in motion change. The warming center is as much a humanitarian gesture as it is a precursor to work on convincing the homeless to commit to a path to get off the streets.

That path goes through a navigation center that equips them with the tools and skills needed to make the journey back to self-sufficiency.