The Manteca City Council took further steps to approve ordinances designed to discourage homeless people from settling in their city.
They include allowing police to remove homeless camps from private property without a complaint and a city ordinance that would make it easier to arrest people who urinate in public. Additional measures to ban dumpster diving to prevent the homeless from getting food or recyclables are being considered by the police department.
City officials and the police chief fear that making it too comfortable for homeless people in their city will attract more homeless people to their community. They are aggressively enforcing existing laws against panhandling and camping in public places. They have also closed the public restrooms in Library Park, a notorious homeless hangout.
Residents have complained of drug use, theft and prostitution at the park.
“The homeless are making a mess in this town,” lifelong resident Ronnie Schaapman said.
But some of the homeless that still inhabit the park during the day say they shouldn’t be lumped in with criminals that also use the park.
“I want to work and have a place to stay and it’s hard to find a place to sleep every night,” said Mike Spence, and unemployed construction worker who has been homeless for several months.
He says it would be a hardship to go to another city to get homeless services because he wouldn’t know the area or any people there. He said closing the park restrooms only means he’s forced to go inside the adjacent public library to use the restrooms or go to nearby restaurants.
He says as a once productive citizen of Manteca, he should be able to get homeless services or shelter in his own town. City officials say there is no money or sentiment for the city to create and run a homeless shelter. They say the truly homeless should get services, but say only 5% of the homeless really want out of the lifestyle.
Others say the city’s stance makes no sense.
“If you want to get rid of the homeless, where do you want them to go? I prefer them to decide where they want to put them first before you get rid of them from the park,” said Manteca resident Kidane Habteselassie who was visiting the library.
A homeless summit is planned for October 29 at the Manteca Transit Center beginning at 9am. Residents, businesses, shelter providers and the homeless are encouraged to bring ideas and comments about how to address the homeless situation.