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Homeless Camp Clean Up Sparks Debate

The adage ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ was well portrayed in a recent Stanislaus River homeless camp clean up on Wednesday, Dec 31.

“It took three or four truckloads to haul off everything that was down there,” said Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins.

Jenkins said the local police department was acting on numerous complaints from residents and the property owner of the shopping center in removing the unsightly debris. Jenkins added that the property owner said the homeless element appeared to be adding to the crime at the shopping center with a rise in thefts and vandalisms.

According to Jenkins, the department posted notices four days in advance, advising squatters that the department along with Oakdale Public Works crews would be in the area clearing out anything left behind.

Camping and trespassing in the area is banned under Oakdale City Ordinance 20-12.

Throughout the year the department has been acting on complaints from citizens regarding various situations involving homeless blight.

Homeless camps and squatting on public lands have been an issue with city parks overrun with transients. Citizens have complained with stories of drunken fights, cussing, and other anti-social behavior such as public urination, and drug usage in both the parks and areas of the encampments along the river.

Frequently at city council meetings the topic of homeless problems including behavior of certain individuals and conditions at neighborhood parks is brought up by members of the public.

In March, code enforcement personnel received multiple complaints about the trash and litter along the south corridor along Albers Road to the city limits. A public works task force team was planned out and included personnel from police, public works, and code enforcement to deal with the encampments and hauled away trash at that time.

After the recent New Year’s Eve cleanup, some on social media sites questioned the city’s actions.

One person on Facebook posted, “… is someone out there in FB land that could please explain to me what the benefit would be of taking sleeping bags from the homeless people on the street (on one of the coldest nights of the year, mind you), I would greatly appreciate it. Perhaps there is something I’m missing, but causing another person to suffer does not seem like a rational solution for anything.”

Response was mixed with support for the police or others feeling the need for compassion in colder weather.

Jenkins said his officers allowed individuals to take their belongings and gave them plenty of opportunity to carry off their items before removing anything that was discarded.

Chief Jenkins said he also received inquiries regarding the Dec. 31 action and would be responding to all of them.