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Homeless watching on a typical Manteca Saturday
homeless photo
A reader captured this photo in front of the Manteca Bulletin of a homeless man bedding down for the night not just 6 1/2 hours ahead of the legal time to do so but in a location that is clearly illegal to do so on Mantecas premiere east-west street Yosemite Avenue.

Spring is in the air.

And just like the swallows will return to Capistrano in seven days, the approach of the vernal equinox means the sightings of homeless in Manteca — as well as other cities — will increase.

The reason is simple. With warmer and drier weather there is less incentive for them to take up Manteca Police community resource officers on repeated offers to connect them with help or relatives. It’s a lot easier for the homeless who might be inclined to get off the streets when conditions aren’t as miserable. Warmer weather also means more homeless migration.

So what can we expect? On Saturday running the usual errands notations were made in what we are seeing as the weather starts to warm.

u7:20 a.m. — Jogging to the gym passing a well-known homeless guy bicycling down Powers Avenue with a bag of recyclables. In case you are wondering, most of those recyclables are “given” to them by the city as they are stolen from unlocked blue carts. City ordinances make it clear that once items are placed in said carts and placed street side they are city property.

u7:21 a.m. —Pass by Lincoln Park. Three homeless are under the picnic shelter. As usual when people use the park in the day time — it was opening day for Manteca Little League — they will scatter.

u7:29 a.m. — A homeless individual left a shopping cart overflowing with belongings and scavenged junk on the southeast corner of Yosemite and Cottage along the jogging route to the gym. It is still there three hours later at one if the city’s busiest intersections.

u10:20 a.m. — On jog home from gym pass homeless camped among bushes along the Spreckels bike path just north of American Modular.

u12:32 a.m. — Pass homeless sitting on sidewalk with filled shopping cart and stuff piled next to him beneath the Highway 99 overpass at Yosemite Avenue on the way to Stockton. At least they aren’t panhandling from the entrance feature welcoming people to Manteca in the middle of Yosemite as they are doing so with more frequency.

u4:35 p.m. — On way back from Stockton take the Airport Way exit to go to Costco. A panhandler is at the stop light at the end of the ramp. There are no signs around reminding panhandlers and those that indulge them that it is illegal to do so. Wonder when the city is going to put the signs that they said they would at all freeway off ramps in town. They do help somewhat as it reminds those that follow the law that if they want to help enable the homeless and others this isn’t the place to do it. Based on past history, within a few weeks at various times on Saturdays you will see panhandlers at the same time at the end of eastbound off ramps at Airport Way, Union Road, and Main Street. In a few more years the city will build another prime panhandling spot for the homeless at McKinkey Avenue.

u4:40 p.m. — A homeless person that had been seen near Lathrop Road carrying what looked like personnel items in black garbage bags is panhandling at the most predictable spot to be panhandled in Manteca — the exit from the Costco parking lot on Daniels Street. Can’t help but wonder if the city in a few years will tolerate panhandling or breaking anti-camping laws and such in the vicinity of the Great Wolf Resort.

u5:35 p.m. — Sent a photo by text of a homeless person setting up shop for the night at the front entrance to the Bulletin. Decide to drive later to see if they are still there.

u6:13 p.m. — Homeless panhandling while sitting partially in street by stop sign  on Historical Plaza Way at Spreckels Avenue. A year ago the area was overrun with homeless destroying what was a $250,000 gift to the community maintained by Spreckels Park developers — the plaza honoring Spreckels Sugar — until the benefactors had enough and fenced it off. The plaza will eventually be torn down.

u6:15 p.m. — Homeless guy in front of Bulletin looks comfortable as does one deeper into downtown that’s plopped down with his belongings near the homeless magnet that is the fire damaged Sycamore Arms boarding house that is now the Motel 6 for Manteca’s homeless.

u6:16 p.m. —  Drove by Library Park, Manteca Library, and Wilson Park. Not a single homeless or deposited pile of junk in sight. Manteca Councilman Gary Singh who is pushing in vain it seems at times for additional efforts by the city to address homelessness is right in that the city had cleaned up the parks only to scatter the homeless during the day into commercial districts in all four corners of Manteca but especially in downtown.

It’s a tough problem and it’s not going away.

Give Manteca kudos for the efforts so far in trying to get the homeless off the street, but unless you live, shop, and play in another city, there is clearly a lot of work that still needs to be done.

Being homeless is not a crime, but dumping stuff on sidewalks and other places is. Perhaps Manteca might want to provide a place the homeless can put their stuff for safe keeping instead of turning commercial landscaping areas into the equivalent of homeless coat closets. The homeless will tell you they won’t leave stuff they can’t absolutely live without at their makeshift campsites that are generally will hidden as they are worried about theft. So they find daytime stash spots or lug it with them as they go about their day in Manteca.

The legal compromise that anyone — homeless or not — can lie down and sleep on public sidewalks if they leave room essentially for a handicapped individual to pass by between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. is being abused on a wholesale basis.  The compromise essentially leaves wider sidewalks in commercial districts as fair game that are highly visible to anyone passing by including on duty city employees.

City leaders say they want everyone to call the non-emergency police dispatch number (209.456.8101) when they see anyone violating city ordinances regarding panhandling, sidewalk use, and presumably when there is trash placed in the city right of way.

While it is true that no police officer may be able to respond in a timely manner or not at all depending upon more pressing calls in the queue, at least the police will have a record of where the hot spots are. More importantly there will be a public record that you can pressure council members with proof positive the city isn’t effectively addressing what many believe is Manteca’s No. 1 quality of life issue.