The spotlight of the homeless, or at least those perceived as homeless, is shining back on the group of individuals that gather daily at William Meyer Park on West G Street.
At a recent Oakdale City Council meeting, a few residents spoke out about the behavior of certain individuals and conditions at the neighborhood park.
Sharon Arpoika, president of Friends of the Library, stated that people don’t feel comfortable going to the library and having to pass by the park. Many times those walking are subject to the foul language and other public debauchery such as drunkenness, public urination, and drug usage.
Arpoika said that the library is planning “A Day of Play” event for July 29 and fears interference from the undesirable subjects in the park that have taken over, making it unpleasant for any family associated event.
“Since the park is adjacent to the library, it’s a perfect place to hold the affair,” said Arpoika. “With how it is right now, I don’t think many attending would feel comfortable or safe.”
Robyn Kerr of the Church Street Neighborhood Watch mentioned finding eight syringes and other drug paraphernalia during a recent clean-up at the park for Love Oakdale.
Kerr suggested the council ban drinking in city parks to curb the problem of the undesirables.
After the meeting, Sharon Morrow, another neighborhood watch block captain for the area, said she feels there have been quite a few visible problems at the park, but feels little support from the police and city.
“It really can’t be used by the community anymore,” Morrow said. “People can’t go there without getting harassed.”
Morrow told stories of drunken fights, cussing, and what she described as “other anti-social behavior.”
“This neighborhood needs a ‘play park’ where kids can go and be safe,” Morrow said. “Around here kids can’t go there and end up playing in the street. We’re trying to get our neighborhood to be more of a community.”
At William Meyer Park on a recent Thursday afternoon, regulars Victor Salinas and Julian Garcia were seated at a picnic table, each drinking a 24-ounce can of beer.
“We’ve been black listed around town,” Salinas said with slurred words. “We had to move out of Wood Park where we had Porta-Potties and benches and then moved here.”
Salinas claims he and his friends have been targeted by the police who should be focusing their time on the traffic problem and hazards to pedestrians crossing the street.
Both Salinas and Garcia said they were not homeless and had houses they lived at in town.
“It’s ‘tax-paying citizens’ like me that paid for this park,” Salinas said. “We’re not going away.”
Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins said he’s advised the patrol division of the complaints and to be responsive to the area.
“Drinking in itself (at the park) is not a crime,” said Jenkins. “The park is open to all and we can only regulate illegal behavior.”
Jenkins added that last year he tried to get public drinking at the city parks banned but the city council rejected the proposal.
For now police will respond and make contacts when a problem is reported or a crime is observed.
“I know they need someplace to go,” said Arpoika, “but it’s a two-edged sword.”