Homeless fold up tents, depart arroyo

first_imgThe area is owned by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District but has been used for years by homeless people who set up tents and built elaborate structures out of sticks and plastic tarps. They constructed stone walls with river rock, put plank bridges over the creek and set up beds, couches, dressers and camp stoves. Critics say they are squatters on public land, a chronic nuisance endangering themselves and others. Some of them use illegal drugs, intimidate hikers and commit crimes against local businesses, police said. “There are vermin and no toilets,” said Larry Peterson, the park district’s general manager. “It’s a pollution issue as well. Businesses in the area say their employees are afraid.” There have been crimes in the industrial area near the arroyo because of transients, with burglaries at nearby businesses and people coming up from the wash to break into cars and steal gasoline, said Simi Valley police Lt. Greg Riegert. “We have arrested numerous people down there in possession of methamphetamine,” he said. “We regularly get calls from businesses down there about everything from people dumping trash and defecating on their property to criminal activity.” Various officials who deal with the homeless say there are shelters open every night at churches and fraternal organizations in Simi Valley where the homeless can come. The Samaritan Center in Simi Valley provides showers, clean clothes, washing machines, food and help obtaining social services and employment. City Councilwoman Barbra Williamson, who chairs the city’s homeless task force, said there is help available to people who seek it. “Simi Valley has very good outreach programs for the homeless. We offer services for people who need help, but some people just don’t want to be helped,” she said. “This has been going on for years and years and years. We have spent millions of dollars trying to help the homeless.” Dobson from Sonrise Christian Fellowship said the programs provided through the city, the Samaritan Center and various social-service agencies in eastern Ventura County are just not enough. “We’re trying to get the city to acknowledge we need better services,” Dobson said. The Samaritan Center provides a great service, but it’s not a permanent solution to help the homeless get off the streets, she said. Before police hit the arroyo last week, some of the homeless smelled of alcohol at 7 a.m. Cathy Brudnicki, executive director of the Ventura County Homeless and Housing Coalition, said about 30 percent of the nation’s homeless are believed to have problems with drugs or alcohol dependency. “There is a lot of anxiety,” she said. “Some people are self-medicating.” As far as a solution, “It sounds like people are talking at each other rather than with each other,” she said after visiting the Simi Valley site. “We need dialogue on possible solutions.” Chris Phillips of Granada Hills is a member of the Sonrise church and has been trying to help the Simi Valley homeless he has befriended. “A lot of homeless people have been neglected for so long they tend to hide from people offering help,” he said. “After so many years of neglect and rejection, it’s hard to build up trust. At Sonrise, we treat them as equal human beings. Compassion is the only key you are going to be able to work with.” Susan Marine, 53, said she came to the homeless encampment in September and found help there she didn’t have elsewhere. “I came down here with nothing. Everyone has helped me,” she said. On Wednesday, police told Marine and her neighbors in the arroyo that time had run out and they had to clear out for their own safety. The area where she and others kept their tents would probably end up under water in a heavy rainstorm. “They are good people, but some have made bad choices,” Dobson said of those living in the arroyo. “Most of them didn’t choose to live there.” She said when the park district cleared out the homeless encampment in the past, people left temporarily, then returned. “It just doesn’t make sense to keep throwing them out,” Dobson said. “Most of them are harmless. … It’s hard to get out of that situation. They could use help, that’s for sure.” eric.leach@dailynews.com (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SIMI VALLEY – After emotional confrontations with police and park district officials, a group of homeless people who had lived for months in thickets along the Arroyo Simi are looking for new places to keep out of the cold and rain. The 30 or so homeless had to move out of their encampments last week because of flooding that could come at any time along this wild section of the arroyo at the western end of the city. “It’s sad. They can only keep moving,” said Karen Dobson, a member of Sonrise Christian Fellowship church, which has been trying to help the homeless. “My heart can’t wrap around this. … It’s not simple to walk out of here and find a home.” Warnings were posted in the area and police moved in Wednesday to issue seven citations for misdemeanor illegal camping, telling the homeless to move out or their possessions would be hauled off as trash by park district crews. The crews used a tractor and began filling up dump trucks with tons of debris from campsites that had recently been abandoned, while other homeless residents of the area began to pack up their belongings. By Friday most of the area had been cleared, but some homeless were still there packing up and getting ready to leave. They were given a few more days. “They are not giving us any alternatives,” said Jeff Apperson, 57, who had been living for more than a year in the arroyo, about two miles northeast of Tierra Rejada Golf Course. Bobby Greene, 47, who likes to hit golf balls along the arroyo, said he had lived in the arroyo for four months after losing his pool plastering job. “It costs 2,500 bucks to move into a place,” he said, noting the high rents in the generally affluent area. “We don’t know what to do. We’re all like a big family down here.” last_img

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