Homeless in Stockton Say the City Threw Away Their New Tents and Other Goods

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STOCKTON -- Homeless people in Stockton say city police threw away their brand new tents and other goods in a recent sweep on an encampment under the crosstown freeway on Harrison Street.

"It didn't effect them all that much, because as you can see, they're right back here again," Kenneth Bell said.

Bell was one of a large group of homeless camped out in front of the Stockton Shelter Monday night.

Just two days after they were forced to leave the same location, many already had brand new tents and other goods, some donated by groups, some they purchased on their own.

"We're out there every week and every time it's something new we bring. And they just throw it away," Nancy Lamb said.

Lamb is a volunteer for Stockton 209 Cares, a charity organization that helps low income and homeless families. She said every Saturday, she visits the particular encampment to feed the people living there, and that some of the tents recently disposed of were brand new donations. She said she was frustrated that a city currently reviewing a new plan to help the homeless continues to set back the unpaid volunteers who've been doing the work for a long time.

"I have a family right now with a 14-year-old child that can't go to the shelter because of his age. And I put them in a hotel for a few days. Well, I can't afford to keep doing that and now they're back out on the streets," Lamb said.

In previous sweeps, Cal Trans posted notices to vacate on homeless encampments along I-5. They told FOX40 they were not involved in Wednesday's sweep on Harrison street.

The Stockton Police Department confirmed to FOX40 that they posted three day notices to vacate the encampment under the crosstown freeway and then cleaned it Saturday morning. They said they do so regularly, this time after receiving several complaints from business owners, residents and the Stockton Shelter. The police department said the encampments had so many people and tents that they were starting to block the entrance to the shelter.

"We camp here for food and showers. It's simple. three meals a day, you know?" Bell said.

Bell told FOX40 many others camped in front of the shelter to make use of the resources the city did provide. He said he could stay at the men's shelter, but chose to live outside with his girlfriend. He said because she did not have an ID, she was not eligible to stay at the shelter.

Many others stay outside because they have pets.

"I'm on the phone with the shelter all the time, asking if they have a mat for someone, if they can take a family in. But when they say, 'No, we're full,' then I have to tell people, 'I'm sorry, I can't help you,'" Lamb said.

"I don't have no hope for it, there was hope at one time, a long time ago. Before Mayor Silva was in office," Bell said.

Stockton city councilors met three weeks ago to consider Mayor Silva's revised homeless plan. It included a proposal to house 25 families in a vacant building. At the end of the meeting, councilors agreed to get cost estimates for sanitary services like hand washing stations, port-a-potties and trash service for homeless in the city. Since then, no actions have been taken, but several camps have been torn down and promptly re-built.

"The city's not working together to prevent it," Lamb said.

Mayor Silva told FOX40 he was very upset the city swept the encampment over the weekend and would be discussing it at Tuesday's council meeting.