Last week two new laws in neighboring Manteca went into effect aimed at dealing with the city’s homeless population and the problems caused by their makeshift encampments within the city.
Many within the City of Oakdale, especially business owners and homeowners, are calling for a similar ordinance with the city as the matter of homeless has been a common discussion item at past city council meetings.
The Manteca ordinance now bans homeless encampments as well as puts in place a local ordinance against public urination and defecation.
One of the ordinances makes it unlawful to construct or occupy homeless encampments on any street, in any park, in and publicly owned or maintained parking lot or parcel and on all private property. Many within the City of Oakdale have complained of these similar encampments at Wood and William Meyer parks and along the Stanislaus River.
The other Manteca ordinance bans public urination and defecation, but also comes after the city temporarily closed public restrooms in a park, a location often used by the homeless to relieve themselves in private.
Contrarily, last year Oakdale officials installed portable toilets in parks that some say detract from the park’s image and only encourage the homeless gathering during the day.
In 2013, Oakdale also established an anti-drinking ordinance to deal with some of the vagrancy issues in parks.
Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion has been very vocal and supportive of his city’s ordinance, calling it “correcting a wrong,” saying it is necessary to give officers teeth in enforcement and dealing with the blight that the encampments are causing the citizenry. He said the public supports the new law stating it wasn’t illegal to be homeless in Manteca, just to set up the encampments.
Although the homeless won’t be jailed or fined in Manteca, it will allow the police officers to tear down any homeless sleeping areas as soon as they appear without having to be invited by the property owner – as was the case previously.
At the Monday, Dec. 1 Oakdale City Council meeting, business owner and Burchell Hill resident Ken Sofiotto called for Oakdale to explore a similar ordinance, stating calls to police have been ineffective because officers don’t have the authority to deal with some of the issues the homeless are causing.
Sofiotto, and others in past Leader news articles on the same subject, have also pointed to the increase in crime and trash from the encampments and have called for a “zero tolerance” when dealing with the individuals.
Sofiotto also feared that since Ripon and Manteca have put in ordinances, and Oakdale has not, that Oakdale may attract more of the vagabonds to avoid the conflict with the police.
Manteca’s ordinance violations will now be prosecuted by the city attorney rather than the district attorney’s office.