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The next step in Manteca’s homeless effort
Dennis Wyatt

The man was prone on the ground behind Staples telling Manteca Police he was ill.

He certainly looked sick. 

Protocol brought a Manteca Fire crew as well as a Manteca District Ambulance. The man was transported to the emergency room at Doctors Hospital of Manteca.

The incident that happened about four years ago was the tip of the iceberg. The man in question was homeless. He was well known to emergency personnel. It was a common occurrence for him to get an $800 plus ambulance ride to the ER from wherever he turned up sick in Manteca after a passerby contacted authorities.

Ambulance rides are not cheap. Someone has to pay for them. Getting treated at an ER for maladies is about as expensive of an option you can get. And in the case of a homeless person the tab is being picked up by taxpayers.

Before you say why didn’t emergency personnel simply ignore the man based on his history, is that something you really want police to do — pass judgment on whether someone that appears in need of medical help is either abusing the system or doesn’t really need help? Besides I’d rather my tax dollars go to repair streets, pay for more police, and support more libraries than lining the pockets of lawyers and providing a homeless person with a cash settlement that likely isn’t going to be put to use to get off the streets.

A day doesn’t go by that there isn’t a health issue in Manteca involving a homeless individual that either costs — or poses a risk to — the public.

It may involve a homeless person accessing the ER for medical care that is significantly more expensive than if there was a clinic they could access. It might involve the response of a fire crew and ambulance. Or it might be something seemingly inconsequential such as defecating behind bushes.

The way the homeless access health care isn’t cheap. Considering the general public ends up absorbing the cost one way or another it is a big issue for all of us especially if a homeless individual suffering from what might be a routine sickness ends up being hospitalized for days.

Then there is the real possibility that luck for Manteca will eventually run out and that the unsanitary practice of the homeless defecating in public could create a real serious community health issue. 

At the end of the day, whether we want to admit it the homeless are still human. Believe me I know there are a few among them who test the definition of human but they definitely are not all in the running to replace pond scum. 

Manteca in the past 27 months has arguably done more than any community under 100,0000 — at least in the NorCal mega region — when it comes to addressing homeless concerns and issues by both the public and private sector. There are some who will argue it is a mere pittance and inexcusable more hasn’t been done. Others will say it is way too much and that anything else is a waste.

Then you have the “Manteca stinks” faction that thinks everything evil originated in Manteca. I’ve got bad news for them. I’ve come across homeless in Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Lathrop, Ripon, Bishop, and even walking along Highway 190 heading into Death Valley.

The homeless are not a modern invention. The issue is not going to go away. The goal needs to be pursing the best possible outcome. That will mean people getting of or avoiding the streets. It means making our community more livable and safe for everybody. And it also means there are hardcore homeless that will never go away.

The proposal by a local coalition that not only has a stake in Manteca but whose ranks involves those who reside here devoting their time or working for humble pay that are far from being part of the emerging government-homeless complex with players pulling down six figures to basically shuffle paper deserve the support of the Manteca City Council.

The request for one-time state funds of $1.4 million to establish a robust homeless resource center in Manteca is the next logical step.

Their pragmatic proposal is to establish a facility for homeless health services, place portable showers the proper hygiene, and to have a central spot for homeless to access services. It also will include three pads for future shelter.

The presumption is this would not be a drop in shelter per se but one where the homeless are involved in a program aimed at helping them with issues. It likely will be similar to several discreet residential locations in Manteca where, just like in other communities, the homeless are admitted into when they are willing to be helped to get a hand in dealing with standard abuse and other such issues.

And while the city would legally be powerless to stop a single adult drop in shelter in specific zones as long as all city requirements are met its more than dicey for non-profits in a community the size of Manteca to be able to secure the support to operate such a facility.

Besides the path that is being taken is one that is clearly being staked out to avoid the pitfalls of the old simplistic solution that having a drop-in shelter actually can make a reasonable difference.

Manteca needs to take the next step. And it needs to be in manner that can make measurable improvements and keep as many people on board as possible.