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The homeless ‘haven’ wasn’t built in a day
Jason Campbell

Even with the most thorough homeless count that Manteca has ever seen the number that came back still seems terribly low. 

One would have to figure that for every one homeless person that was counted, there was at least another that flew under the radar – and that’s not counting the homeless that are couch-surfing or bouncing from motel to motel as money comes in and goes out. 

But this isn’t strictly a Manteca problem. 

As some media entities with a very biased bent have pointed out, California has a homeless problem on its hands – with miniature cities sprouting up in places like Stockton and the Silicon Valley, and the issues in places that have always been plagues with homelessness – San Francisco, or Los Angeles – are worse than anybody has ever seen. 

And while it’s easy to dismiss all of these people as lazy drug addicts who don’t want to work to better their lives, that does nothing to understand the issues just beneath the surface that have yet be addressed in any meaningful way and in some respects are only going to be getting worse as time goes on. 

First of all, the cost of housing in California is out of control. A standard minimum wage job definitely can’t afford the purchase of a new home, and it’s getting to the point that it won’t be able to rent an apartment either. When rental properties become available, landlords want references and a massive amount of money up front – something that those living paycheck to paycheck can’t afford, let alone people who are homeless – and even the “affordable” apartment complexes have realized that there’s a market in moderate renovations so they can jack up the monthly rent to capitalize on the current wave. 

Unless there’s a bubble that’s going to burst in the near future – the markers that were there in 2008 aren’t quite there today – that cost of housing is only going to increase, and things are only going to get more expensive. 

And then there’s the issue with resources. 

While it’s unrealistic to think that the government can take care of every person that’s on the street, there are quite a few that could benefit from mental health services, and even in a liberal state like California those resources are woefully underfunded. If somebody is battling mental illness and doesn’t have the medical care necessary to get it under control, it doesn’t matter what somebody does to help them – the same problems will just keep cropping up and the cycle will repeat itself. 

The closure of state mental hospitals coupled with well-meaning laws that makes spaces in county jails almost non-existent only exacerbates these problems. 

It’s also worth pointing out that supply and demand is what is driving these housing prices through the roof, and as long as they continue to build new houses – and people from the Bay Area  continue to flood into the Central Valley in search of cheaper accommodations – this problem will persist. 

It’s the height of hypocrisy, in my opinion, to see people complaining on social media about the homeless problem and how they thought they were “getting something different” when they moved here a year ago.

This “wasn’t supposed to be like” the Bay Area arrivals lament. They say the homelessness that they moved here to avoid are now springing up all around them while failing to recognize the inflated housing market they helped perpetuate is one of the chief reasons that the problem isn’t going away anytime soon. 

I don’t have enough space to detail how prevalent this attitude is, so I’ll just summarize by saying that it’s blinding to the real issues and real solutions that could actually make a difference not just for the people on the street, but also the blue collar people that have spent their entire lives in these parts but are prices out of putting down roots because of this phenomenon. 

Where are they supposed to go? Iowa?

It’s easy to sit back and point these things out in a column, and much harder to come up with workable solutions that will actually make a difference. I’m hopeful that the Manteca City Council will be able to take some of the steps towards resolving these issues and keeping all residents in mind when they make the decisions that affect the growing and drastically-changing community as a whole.

We also need to keep in mind that this isn’t a problem that just sprung-up overnight – there were years of decisions that went in to creating this perfect storm of circumstances and managing our way out of it will likely take just as long. No single action by the community, or the council, or the police, or the State legislature will make all of this go away tomorrow, and certainly no barrage of Facebook posts will bring about the meaningful change that is necessary alleviate these concerns. 

Having the Qualex building put into service to help this underserved community will help immensely, but that could be months before that actually happens. Meanwhile, more and more people are going to end up on the street and the vicious social media sniping and finger-pointing will rage on as well. 

I don’t know how we get out of this one, and I certainly don’t know how California corrects these issues. It’s such a multi-faceted array that even if the hard decisions were made tomorrow, it would take longer than most people are willing to give to see them through.

I hate to be like some of the pseudo news outlets in this area that only like to point out the negative and offer no meaningful solutions whatsoever, but I really don’t know how this can be corrected other than to say that pointing out the obvious problem and demanding that something be done about it isn’t a solution. 

This will take work, and dedication, and sacrifice, and teamwork. 

And as much as all of us would want it to, none of that happens in a single day. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.