Saunders Park, near Oak Street in central Bakersfield, has seen its share of homeless encampments.
Two homeless encampments that have been established at the city park have drawn the attention of police over the past several days.
It's one more corner of Bakersfield, where many city residents are feeling powerless in the wake of increasing numbers of street people and homeless living on the sidewalks and alleys or haunting vacant buildings — and city parks like Saunders.
One area resident called police after 10 p.m. Sunday, with the understanding that the 10 p.m. park curfew would give police more power to move people out. But the camps remained.
Sgt. Nathan McCauley, a spokesman for the department, said officers make contact with park dwellers regularly, but their hands are often tied when it comes to options.
They can arrest individuals who have outstanding warrants, but oftentimes they are left with handing out misdemeanor citations or just simply leaving them there.
And that's what they did Monday.
"That doesn't really fix the problem," McCauley said.
In fact, police have been called to that park every day this month except Aug. 7.
"There have been changes in the law," McCauley said. "Lodging in public is no longer an enforceable crime."
However, trespassing on private property, public nuisance laws like sleeping on and blocking a sidewalk, park curfews, and other violations may give police more power to take action.
Ericka Thompson, 46, said she has lived at Saunders Park, on and off, for four years. But recently, someone has provided here with a place to live. She lost her job 11 years ago and became homeless with her two children.
"Everyone here," she said of the encampment at Saunders, "is on the streets.
"It just takes one person to look past the stereotypes and see them for who they are."
People say the homeless leave a mess, she said. But when crowds come to the park to play on the weekends, the litter they leave is bad.
"At times, it's the public that comes to the park and thrashes it."
Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonzales has been responding regularly to the concerns of his constituents. There's a lot in the works, he said, in an attempt to address the problem.
Eighty additional beds are headed to the two main homeless centers in Bakersfield. The city is hiring a crime analyst to help the police department better use limited resources. And thanks to tax dollars finally coming in from Measure N, police trainees are being prepared for duty as sworn officers.
"I signed up for this job. I believe it's my duty to hear the concerns of people in my ward and push for solutions," Gonzales said. "But it takes time."