Does Manteca have an emergency shelter crisis?
Are we our brother’s keeper? The answer to a degree may come Tuesday night. That’s when the Manteca City Council will decide whether to declare that Manteca has an emergency shelter crisis.
The declaration opens the door for the Manteca Gospel Rescue Mission to apply for a share of $7.1 million San Joaquin County is earmarked as part of $700 million in one-time state funds to address homeless issues.
The Manteca Gospel Rescue Mission wants to seek funds to provide health care and showers for the homeless working in conjunction with Community Medical Centers and Inner City Action.
The declaration also relaxes state code issues as long as basic health and safety considerations are met to provide emergency shelter and homeless services on city-owned property.
This could open the door for an interim solution that would make it possible for nonprofits working to help the homeless that want to take the next step.
The city has a former maintenance garage on Wetmore Street that is now used to shelter solid waste dumpsters.
Given city workers were working in the structure up until a few years ago it obviously meets minimum health and safety concerns.
It could easily be transformed into a “day center” for the homeless allowing non-profits to gather at one location to provide services.
The existing bathroom could be expanded in a primitive fashion to provide more toilets and even showers. That — coupled with some strategically and discretely placed portable toilets throughout the community — should reduce public urination and defecating. The homeless are like everyone else. The have bowel movements. You cannot blame gas stations and such restricting or controlling access to public restrooms they may have. Most homeless would probably not want to go to the bathroom as if they are an animal. As for those who think if the city simply does nothing it will reduce public defecation or somehow the homeless will move onto Stockton how well is that strategy working? Besides it is a real public health concern.
The city could issue garbage carts to serve as storage bins to reduce the amount of stuff — or trash to most of us — the homeless cart around Manteca or try to hide in public or private landscaping. The carts could be stored and accessed at the former garage. The homeless have a fear other homeless will steal their stuff. More than a few people have made it clear the sight of the homeless hauling stuff around is a quality of life issue that will lead them not to patronize commercial ventures near where such stuff is placed as the homeless wander around.
Contrary to popular belief the homeless aren’t exactly starving. Various groups and individuals see to that by dropping food off at various locations that often goes to waste. It’s not that the homeless are finicky eaters. It is why when you give a panhandler food instead of money they’re more apt to toss it. They primarily are panhandling to get high via booze or drugs and not to buy a meal or secure a room. Having a central place for a daily meal would eliminate some issues and reduce the waste of resources.
There are some that get irked when there is a suspicious fire in an empty building frequented by homeless and the homeless are identified as the likely culprits. It’s not a wild conclusion. It’s doubtful most homeless are arsonists per se. But they do start fires to cook but mostly to keep warm. So why not have a basic emergency shelter — mattresses on the floor with blankets type of thing — available only on nights when the temperature drops below 36 degrees or by some other weather marker?
It would not be a nightly shelter but an emergency shelter based on weather conditions that imperil health. It’s a measured gesture of humanity. We should not make it comfortable to any degree to be on the streets as it would make it more difficult to convince people to willing accept help to start the journey to get off the streets. There’s nothing like being drenched in rain night after night to make you rethink your attitude. But at the same time there is a point where you are endangering people in terms of a severe health issue resulting from freezing weather. You may say that’s their problem but guess who will get stuck with exorbitant medical bills that such exposure can lead to?
It could also serve as a gathering place for the homeless on a daily basis giving non-profits such as the Manteca Gospel Rescue Mission and others a place to build trust and such to get the homeless to access programs to either first address substance abuse and other issues or work with them to make the homeless employable.
The relaxation of various code requirements by the emergency declaration would pave the way for the best possible way to “test drive” a true day resource center in Manteca. Not only does it reduce the cost but because it is city property that would be leased to a non-profit, the city can place restrictions such as it cannot be operated as a full blown shelter for single adults.
Its shelf life is as long as a housing emergency exists as declared by Manteca local officials.
It is actually the best of a lot of worlds. The next steps could be taken to address homeless issues. It would require minimal city investment. The city would not be running it but as the “landlord” they could set ground rules.