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Point-in time counts stretching back to foreclosure crisis & free range homeless
PERSPECTIVE
homeless beds
Beds in a San Diego homeless shelter.

Remember 2011?

That was when San Joaquin County, led by Stockton, was the epicenter of the housing crisis triggered by the mortgage meltdown underwritten by liar loans.

Foreclosures were off the charts.

Manteca that year had more than 300 homes foreclosed that the process had started on in the previous year.

That was in addition to 776 homes that had received notices of default in 2011, the first step of the foreclosure process.

Many of those homes avoided final foreclosure via short sales.

The bottom line was 3.7 percent of Manteca’s 21,000 homes at the time entered the foreclosure process during 2011.

It should be noted rents kept going up because people displaced by foreclosures had to live somewhere.

And thanks to short sales and homes bought out of foreclosure, it was actually less expensive to buy than rent.

The only caveat is you had to have the downpayment and not have tanked your credit rating with a foreclosure.

In the middle of the housing crisis, the first point-in-time count was done of the homeless population in Manteca.

The point-in-time count is a one day unduplicated count of all individuals in a community experiencing homelessness that are unsheltered and shelters.

It is less liberal than the McKinney-Verto Homeless Assistance Act that schools are required to follow to identify homeless students.

For schools, a student is homeless even if they aren’t living on the streets or in cars or in a homeless shelter, but may have a roof over their heads whether it is via couch surfing, bouncing between motels, sharing housing with others, or living in garages and such.

The point-in-time zeroes in on those living in the streets or accommodated at homeless shelters.

Manteca point-in-time homeless count in 2011 when the city had 68,000 people was 23.

The count in 2021 with a population of 85,000 was 129.

The count taken every two years is critical for two reasons.

First, it is a key factor in helping jurisdictions secure state and federal funds to help deal with the homeless.

Equally important, it is critical in determining the “ground floor” of the response of jurisdictions to homeless concerns in a community.

It is the linchpin figure in determining when a city has provided adequate beds in order to step up the pressure on forcing those in illegal encampments to move.

If there is an available bed, police have the authority under the 9th District Court ruling that the Supreme Court allowed to stand by declining to review it to apply pressure as in “pack up your things and use the bed or move on.”

Given the critical role the count plays in Manteca’s plan for a permanent homeless navigation center with transitional housing that it is preparing to build thanks to a $15 million state grant Mayor Gary Singh secured by working with State Senator Susan Eggman, the city needs an accurate accounting of the homeless.

It is why the point-in-time count scheduled for after the first of the year in Manteca will be conducted under the city’s direction and not that of the county as in previous years.

City Manager Toni Lundgren indicates that was because staff and local organizations that deal daily with Manteca’s homeless believe the last count may not have been thorough enough.

It makes sense that those who are most familiar with homeless hangouts and haunts in Manteca plot how the count is done.

And because of that, there is an expectation the count this time around — coupled with economic concerns as well as the usual repertoire of substance abuse and mental health issues — will be higher than it was in 2021 at 129

The 2019 homeless count, by the way, was 218.

And before that it was 88 in 2017.

The fact it is realistic to expect the count to go up has led to a fine tuning of Manteca’s homeless strategy going forward.

There never was an expectation that the $15 million state grant would result in a 150 or 200 bed shelter. The bed capacity was fluid and abstract based on money, needs, and the rule of undertaking Manteca needs to get a solid handle on homeless issues.

Keep in mind, $15 million doesn’t build what it used to do.

To be effective, a homeless navigation center needs basic support facilities such as a kitchen, day rooms, space for programs and services, bathrooms/showers, and pet support plus infrastructure such as water, sewer, drainage, parking lots and such.

It also may need to accommodate families.

There also needs to be a provision for transitional housing — likely tiny homes — also to make the process work.

That means Manteca at one point was zeroing in on 100 beds or so.

The wild card in projecting need is not just ever changing economic conditions and bad choices led by addiction.

It also includes those homeless that don’t want to be sheltered.

If there is a bed available and they don’t want to follow the rules, they lose the “extra right” of being able to illegally camp under the court decision.

It sounds a tad confusing and hard to pin down because it is.

The number is — and will be — a moving target.

Manteca is preparing for the possibility that when the navigation center is ready to open in two years or so that the beds it will provide may not be enough.

It is why the city is doing two things.

First, the two portable dorms that are now being put to use at the temporary emergency shelter at 555 Industrial Park Drive are designed to be moved several blocks to the west to where the homeless navigation shelter will be built.

Secondly, the city is moving toward acquiring funding for two more portable dorms.

The current dorms will accommodate 50 beds.

That is split evenly between 25 men and 25 women.

Given men are the overwhelming majority of the homeless, there are likely to still be homeless on the streets assuming 25 beds are filled in the make dorm.

The two additional dorms would increase the overall number of beds to 100, with 75 of those likely allocated to men.

With all four portable dorms being capable of being relocated, the permanent homeless navigation center, Manteca should be well positioned to help the homeless transition from the streets.

Equally important, it will allow Manteca to do a full-court press to end what might best be described as free-range homeless sleeping in the streets.

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 dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com