Merced Homeless Encampment Set to Close

July 11, 2009 12:28:47 AM PDT
Homeless advocates in Merced are trying to keep several people from being forced to leave their encampment at the end of the month. But the property owner says it's a matter of public safety.Crates covered in cloth, carts filled with clothes, and couches crammed into corners help make up the homeless encampment along Black Rascal Creek in Merced. More than twenty people seek shelter here. Including Mariano Resendez, who says he became homeless two years ago after losing his construction job.

Resendez said, "We're used to this, the sky, the wind, we're not used to being indoors. We've gotten to the point where we're almost like, I don't want to say animals, but we just like being outdoors now."

But now the Merced Irrigation District, which just recently realized it owns this property, says all of the homeless who live here must leave before August first so crews can do flood prevention work.

Pope said, "It's a storm drain facility, and that area flooded in 2006, so there are significant public and health safety issues with those folks being there."

Merced Irrigation District requested a meeting with several advocacy groups and local leaders Friday in hopes of finding a solution. But the homeless say there's simply nowhere for them to go because shelters don't allow pets and they have certain requirements that some of them can't meet.

Homeless advocates say what's making this problem even more challenging is that many of the people who live along this creek are registered sex offenders.

That means there are several restrictions on where they can live.

Renee Davenport said, "They can't be near schools, they can't be near parks, they can't be near churches. They've been there living for two years, some of them. Some of them have five and six months left on their parole and they want to leave this town."

During this public forum, representatives from several agencies agreed to hold regular meetings to continue searching for a solution. Many of the homeless suggest having the city or county designate a piece of land where they can legally set up camp. But for now no such place exists.

"We don't want a handout, but we just need somewhere to go," said Resendez.

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