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Homeless solution No. 6: Taking steps to prevent problems taking root & spreading
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Manteca needs to “homeless proof” areas that are subject to blight due to homeless gathering.

You read that right. The city needs to homeless proof problematic areas and encourage the private sector to do the same.

The city has already done it with the $7,000 wrought iron fencing to secure the library courtyard. In the process of doing so the city not only stopped ongoing damages, defecating and debris that had to be addressed every morning by city crews but another amenity has been added for people to enjoy — a pleasant outside reading area complete with chairs as well as tables with umbrellas.

Manteca is getting ready to spend money to homeless proof the area behind the main fire station on Union Road with fencing and gates.

The best example of homeless proofing can be found on Spreckels Avenue.

The Spreckels Historical Plaza created and maintained as a $250,000 “gift” to the people of Manteca by developers Mike Atherton and Bill Filios is a classic example of how homeless who routinely hang out in a location and make it “theirs” can help spread blight.

The developers didn’t have a problem per se with homeless hanging out at the plaza. Their problems were with copper being stripped repeatedly from the irrigation system, lights being destroyed so the homeless could jimmy ways to charge their smartphones, defecating in the landscaping, drug paraphernalia left everywhere, littering with most in the form of empty booze bottles and used clothes dropped off by so-called “Good Samaritans”, and illegal camping.

Manteca Police played the obligatory cat and mouse game when called.

Soon the problems spread to the nearby Food-4-Less shopping center and other nearby business with bathrooms being thoroughly trashed, a major uptick in panhandling, trash dumped all around, and homeless sleeping in front of stores and even the Chase Bank ATM.

Finally after more than a year of frustrations and getting tired off their employees being threatened by some of the homeless, the plaza was fenced off.

The problems in the area started dropping off immediately. The dial back of homeless issues continued. At the same time when the city was given letters from landlords of the spaces in the Food-4-Less shopping center that the homeless did not have permission to camp or set up shop on their property. That was then followed up by the city’s sweeping ordinance regulating camping on private property.

Other examples of homeless proofing can be found with how the Spreckels/Yosemite Chevron and Target replaced shrubbery the homeless were able to create hidden living spaces with low profile shrubs.

The sixth Manteca homeless strategy needs to see the city work with private property owners on ideas the private sector can implement to reduce homeless issues.

The upcoming Manteca homeless summit on June 21 will focus heavily on ways of getting the homeless off the streets and addressing their needs. That effort needs to continue.

At the same time the city needs to also take the lead in a community-wide effort to reduce problems many of the homeless create.

The homeless have rights and so do the “homed.”

Efforts to reduce homelessness through intervention and addressing basic needs must continue. At the same time the other side of the equation — homeless activity that violates quality of life laws on the books for everyone to adhere to so everyone can do-exist in the community — must be enforced on everyone including the homeless.