Two days, two different jogging routes.
So how many different homeless individuals did you think I passed?
The answer is 14.
The first day it was six. Four under various trees along the Tidewater Bike Path and two living in a camper parked along Moffat Boulevard.
The second day is was eight. One in the Spreckels Park Basin where the BMX track is located, one bicycling down Moffat toward the 120 Bypass, and six who were visible as I jogged down Van Ryn Avenue and Moffat who were living on the south side of the freeway embankment.
Of the 14, how many of them were aggressive or engaging in erratic behavior? Zero.
If there are indeed 218 homeless in Manteca that are truly unsheltered based on the most recent point in time count conducted in January 2019, the vast majority keep pretty much to themselves.
That’s not saying they don’t pilfer stuff besides breaking the law just to survive. And they certainly are urinating and defecating in places they shouldn’t. That has to be the case if there are 218 on the streets there aren’t a lot of nearby options where they can go. It is clear this can pose a serious health hazard.
But all in all the homeless by and large are not in your face nor or they committing felonies day in and day out.
What they are at a minimum are jarring to see bedded down in doorways or pushing pilfered shopping carts crammed with what we see as trash and they see as their worldly possessions around town.
And given their ranks include the mentally ill and those abusing substances whether it is drugs or alcohol they can present a danger to others as well as themselves.
So unless you’ve been attacked or aggressively threatened what is the percentage in not only vilifying them but every elected official who has the audacity to try and work toward a solution that isn’t unlawful and won’t get the city sued fir millions?
I get that many see the homeless as repulsive and frightening. I get that people are angered that within their ranks are those who indeed don’t want to follow any rules.
But what is the value in being so angry at any workable solution proposed that it intimidates elected officials not to follow through if simply doing nothing assures things will get worse?
Do not misunderstand. I am not a homeless advocate. I live in a neighborhood within a half mile or so of the city’s most popular encampment spots for homeless. I’ve been aggressively approached three times by the homeless including one individual who went out of his way to bump into me fairly hard as I jogged down a sidewalk on Yosemite Avenue.
I’ve had to deal with stepping over homeless sleeping when I’ve exited work in the early morning hours. I’ve also endured more than a few homeless individuals shouting profanities as I walked by.
I believe such behavior is unacceptable. I also get why it would be more than disconcerting for anyone to have to encounter the homeless in such situations, especially children and women.
I also am certain if the city doesn’t step up its interactions with the homeless in a manner that is both effective and legal that the degree of homeless issues and problems you see in locales such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other California cities will become embedded here.
That is why those who view Manteca City Council’s efforts to address homeless issues with the proposed homeless navigation center and drop-in shelter on South Main Street as a reckless move that needs to be stopped will only make matters worse if they succeed.
It’s ironic in a way. Some of the most vicious critics of the Manteca City Council following legally imposed rules while working to forge a solution to minimize homeless impacts on the community slam many of the homeless for not following the rules.
We should not accept what we see on Manteca’s streets as inevitable. Nor should we be so unrealistic to believe the homeless will magically go away even if you could pile them in a police vehicle and drop them off outside the city limits of a nearby community.
That is what a nearby community did to Manteca up until a few years ago before homeless advocates started filing class action lawsuits costing municipalities millions in damages.
We need to stop blaming Manteca leaders for supposedly creating the homeless problem, for allegedly coddling the homeless or refusing to put our collective wealth as taxpayers at risk by blatantly violating the civil rights of the homeless. Instead we need to pressure them to keep pursuing the legal path carved out by the 9th District court.
The core of that decision is simple. There are certain things a sheltered or an unsheltered person has to do in order to live. Among those “things” is the need to sleep.
If there is no place — read that bed on a drop-in shelter — that a homeless person can be directed to, a city can’t ban public sleeping and by default makeshift “encampments” consisting of personal belongings.
Cities can, as Manteca has done, carve out exceptions that apply to everyone. But at the end of the day they can’t ban sleeping in most public places unless there is a shelter with available beds within the community and the homeless refuse to take advantage of them.
You may not like it, but that’s the rule.
Instead of simply building a drop-in shelter that would provide a crutch for the homeless to stay on the street, the city is pursuing a navigation center designed to provide all-encompassing services aimed at getting the homeless off the streets and being able to support themselves.
Will it be 100 percent effective? No.
Is it the best shot and least expensive option to get the homeless problem in check and to start reducing it? Yes.
There have always been homeless in Manteca, California, and the United States. About 10 years or so ago it started becoming significantly worse.
The pressure on this City Council — and those we elect down the road — is three-fold.
*Design and site the South Main Street navigation center/drop-in shelter so that it creates minimal problems and issues for the community.
*Make sure there is an effective and holistic program in place and adequately funded that is aimed at getting homeless individuals off the street for good.
*Once the drop-in shelter component is in place, make sure the Manteca Police is committed — and has the manpower needed — to force the hands of the homeless.
That means various laws that for all practically purposes are suspended and can’t be enforced in the absence of available beds need to be pursued aggressively and consistently when beds are available and remain empty.
The goal is to reduce the homeless problem.
It’s not to bellyache non-stop about the homeless.
Essentially by giving them a concrete option Manteca will take away their de fault option of doing what they wish in the absence of beds as delineated by the 9th District Court of Appeals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org