After interviewing three city manager recruitment firms during a special meeting earlier that day, the Los Banos City Council met in the evening on August 17, and once again the man topic of discussion was the issue of homeless encampments.

Los Banos Police Chief Gary Brizzee shared a presentation on Los Banos Rail-Trail encampment, a discussion requested by Council Member Brett Jones. Brizzee said that staff wanted direction from the council about pursuing longer-term strategies for housing those experiencing homelessness in Los Banos and possible relocation or closure of the Rail-Trail encampment.

“Unfortunately,” Brizzee said, “there is no immediate relocation site identified. With the current staffing and management plan that we have, it is very difficult to have a successful camp in another location.”

“It sounds like we need to figure out more funding sources,” Jones said, “ so we can have more manpower to mitigate the problem. No matter where you move this encampment, or if you remove it completely, all you’re doing is moving the problem around town.”

“As we have continued aggressive burglaries and crime,” Council Member Refugio Llamas said, “these folks are going to be emboldened, and sooner or later we’re going to have a tragedy there if we don’t take some kind of action.” Llamas acknowledged that relocation of the encampment is not the ideal solution, but it will provide relief to those affected.

Council member Jones made a motion for staff to continue looking into operations for the homeless, possible alternative sites for the homeless encampment as well as a discussion on the locations, if any. It was approved unanimously by the council.

Earlier in the meeting, during public forum, residents from the Rancho Los Banos Mobile Park returned to talk about their experiences living near a homeless encampment. A resident of the park, Claudia Nuñez, addressed the council, “I’m begging you. We’ve already come here time after time to ask for help, nothing is being done.”

Another resident of the park, John Cornell, said that a major issue is the fires that are started by the homeless individuals nearby. He shared that his father is 88 years old and would not be able to evacuate in case of a fire, and neither would many others in the mobile homes park.

Chandra Lewis, assistant manager and tenet of Rancho Los Banos Mobile Home Park, also shared her experiences, adding that she has witnessed homeless individuals strip down in front of her, defecate near the mobile home park, and overdose.

“I have had countless confrontations with the homeless stealing and going through the trash cans.” Lewis said. “If you’re going to place them there, they have to follow the rules of citizens.”

Malina Duran

Malina Duran’s email is