Santa Paula Times

SPPD: Sweep launched Thursday of homeless encampment near river

August 06, 2008
Santa Paula Police Department

Santa Paula Police Department was the lead agency for a July 31 sweep of a homeless encampment near the Santa Clara River.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesSanta Paula Police Department was the lead agency for a July 31 sweep of a homeless encampment near the Santa Clara River. “We know there are homeless people down there and we found their encampments when we got there a little after 7 a.m.,” SPPD Lieutenant Carlos Juarez said Friday. “There’s an effort to clean up the area because of the crime and other concerns.”Also taking part in the action were personnel from the Ventura County Human Services Agency and the Nature Conservancy, which owns the property that was targeted in the sweep.Of the three camps that were discovered two were vacant, but at the third site police and social workers encountered “a man who leaving the area. He was a Hispanic male in his 50s from Mexico,” who said he had been living near the river for about one year.The man told Juarez that he was “going out to find aluminum cans” to recycle for cash. “I asked him how much property he had down there and then told him to get his things, because they were going to clean up the camp.” Ventura County Human Services personnel gave the homeless man “literature and brochures” detailing free available services and programs that he was urged to take advantage of.
Juarez said that numerous personnel from the different agencies were involved in the sweep - including a cleaning crew provided by the Nature Conservancy - and that it appeared that as many as 10 people were living in the encampment. From past experiences and contacts, Juarez said those living at the encampment would be a mix of both male and female transients.Also found at the scene were “old evidence of wire stripping” the plastic insulation of copper wire, and “a pile of galvanized items, pipe fittings, things like that,” which have no recycling resale value. The theft of recyclable materials has been on the rise across the nation including in Santa Paula, where a little more than a year ago a homeless sweep targeted the riverbed area.The action came after a rash of thefts from Lemonwood Park businesses that cost the companies hundreds of thousands of dollars, including equipment damage. Last month copper rain gutters were reported stolen from a McKevett Heights area home, and in late April thieves were caught in the act of stealing recyclables from a vacant South Ojai Street home undergoing renovations.The Nature Conservancy and Ventura County Human Services were also involved in the May 2007 sweep, and for Thursday’s action the city and the SPPD respectively “supplied the dumpsters and the law enforcement,” said Juarez. The Nature Conservancy supplied about 10 people to clear the area, and it “looked like they’d be down there for hours to clean up the camps.” SPPD Reserve Mike Levy “used his own off-road vehicle to transport” personnel to and from the encampment site.Juarez said that Rich Handly of the Nature Conservancy suggested that “It might not be a bad idea of putting together a task force” to deal with the issue. “I recommended that he get involved with the Santa Paula Ministerial Association’s homeless coalition... they’d be happy to work with him” on issues of homelessness.