The Los Banos City Council made further efforts to address the ongoing challenge of whether to relocate homeless individuals at its Nov. 2 meeting.
Council member Deborah Lewis requested a discussion about coming up with quicker solutions to the continual issues resulting from a homeless encampment’s location near Rancho Los Banos Mobile Home Park.
At its last meeting on Oct.19, the council made the decision to apply for the state’s Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) Program and chose the option of purchasing a motel that will serve as permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness.
However, because of the prevailing issues being experienced by residents at Rancho Los Banos Mobile Home Park, councilmember Deborah Lewis requested a discussion regarding homeless encampment near the park and a return to the idea of a possible camp relocation.
“I’m making a plea to this council that we find some other alternatives because the fires aren’t going to cease, we can’t have somebody out there 24/7,” Lewis said.
“What are we going to do to relieve the residents who feel that we don’t care about them?” she asked the council members.
During the public forum two residents of Rancho Los Banos Mobile Home Park returned to speak about problems they are experiencing and share the concerns they have as a result of the nearby homeless encampment.
Resident Claudia Nuñez, who has been attending city council meetings since April, expressed concern for the safety of the mobile home park residents, especially the children. She added that the laws have not been enforced with homeless individuals that start fires outside and roam around without clothes, among other offenses.
“Every night, there are fires out there. I see police cars out there for hours, sitting there, but nobody does anything,” Nuñez said. “I’ve called 911 I don’t know how many times. All they do is go out, turn the fires off, and nobody gets tickets.”
Another resident of the park, Chandra Lewis, said that she had a phone call with a council member about moving the homeless encampment. Rather than being offered optimism on the situation, she said that she was left feeling unvalued by the council member.
Other residents took the opportunity to suggest options for housing and offering a better life to the unsheltered individuals., Jim Roming, a resident of Los Banos, shared that working with John Glavin’s company, Custom Containers, an affordable and viable avenue that Los Banos can take to alleviate homelessness issues.
Roming noted that Custom Containers are preparing to break ground in Merced in the next couple of weeks to produce 20 housing units.
“A case manager will be made available for drug, alcohol and mental counseling, provided by the Merced County Rescue Mission,” Roming added.
During the council’s discussion about the homeless encampment near Rancho Mobile Home Park, council members Lewis and Refugio Llamas were in favor of moving the encampment to another area suggested by staff in order to alleviate the stress being experienced by residents.
Council members Brett Jones and Kenneth Lambert, on the other hand, were in favor of putting up cameras around the encampment. They said that the biggest issue is inefficient manpower that goes into maintaining encampments, and that these issues will prevail despite the location of the encampment.
After thorough discussion, council member Lewis made a motion for staff to
1. Look at the viability of moving the encampment to one of the three locations that Police Chief Gary Brizzee gave at a previous meeting,
2. Assess the cost of leaving the encampment where it is, including camera and security, and
3. Suggest whether to move it further away and/or provide any other reasons to keep the encampment at the current location.
Lewis’ motion was approved unanimously by the council. A tentative date for this presentation has been set by Brizzee for the regularly scheduled city council meeting on Dec. 7.