During the public forum at the August 3 Los Banos City Council meeting, Amy Benias came forth to advocate for those experiencing homelessness. This was another chapter in the continuing council discussion of homelessness that began at its May 25 meeting.

Benias thanked the council for giving the homeless individuals near Rancho Los Banos Mobile Park their own area, but she had criticism for what the residents shared about the homeless individuals. She feared that what they had said would lead the council to remove the containment area.

“I fear that entitled ‘not in my backyard’ attitudes, as well as the misinformation with lack of research, over-exaggerations and flat-out mean-spirited comments,” Benias said, “will persuade the council to shut down and remove the containment area.”

Benias then offered three solutions: (1) leave the containment area there and improve it (2) follow in the footsteps of Modesto and Sacramento and provide an emergency shelter with tents or (3) build housing for those experiencing homelessness in Los Banos.

“The failure to provide even minimal comfort for those among us suffering from trauma, disability, sickness, and misfortune [due to homelessness],” Benias said, “represents a failure not just of responsible government, but also of the human heart.”

Chandra Lewis, resident and Assistant Manager of Rancho Los Banos Mobile Home Park, defended herself and her tenants, “If you don’t live there, you don’t know.”

Lewis described what she and residents of the mobile park regularly experience due to the close homeless encampment: needles on the ground, torn-up containment and park fence, stealing, individuals passed out in the park due to drug use, and overall fear, especially among the elderly.

Lewis acknowledged, “It is okay to help them, but it is not okay for them to have a pass because they are homeless to terrorize us.”

Council Member Llamas, in his report near end of the meeting, said, “It’s a very difficult situation, but there are some very serious concerns there with the folks that are having to deal with it in their front yard.

“I don’t think there is an ideal solution out there,” Llamas added, “but we’re working towards a better outcome for all involved.”

Malina Duran

Malina Duran’s email is malina.duran1999@gmail.com.