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."

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(30) comments


I agree 100% with ReefRanger. To Quick: you don't seem to understand that people like me and ReefRanger can have empathy to the homeless while at the same time we don't wish our neighborhood parks to become homeless camps. Those two things aren't mutually exclusive. I live in the Westpark neighborhood. 7 months ago my 15 year old daughter could go to the basketball courts which I can see from my front yard by herself and practice. Now, homeless people are sleeping on those same courts, with tents set up in the grassy areas nearby. Where does empathy get me? I regularly give food, drinks and money to homeless people. At the same time, I don't want my park to become their home and that doesn't make me an uncaring person. The city/county needs to address this problem. The solution is NOT to let them ruin neighborhood parks.


United States is the biggest military spender in the world, spending upwards of 60 Billion dollars per year on weapons of war and training our kids how to use them to kill people. That's more than the next 8 biggest military spenders combined, all of which are purported to be allies with United States.

for less than 10% of one(1) years military spending, United States could purchase, outright, a home for every single U.S. citizen, not just the homeless citizens, EVERY citizen. this problem could be solved overnight if the murderous scumbags YOU and YOU and YOU and I voted to put in public office would stop their sickening bloodlust for innocent women and children overseas and appropriate the money properly. the problem is with those people who are responsible for it: us, you and me, folks. the ones doing the most complaining are the ones responsible. hows that grab you? bring on the excuses and personal attacks, naysayers. the facts cannot be refuted. you can find them on the united nations website. lots of very interesting facts and figures there for all to see.




have any of you given any consideration to the fact that of all the multitude of species on the face of the earth, only one species pays to live here?


Another (Measure N >> 'penny-tax') "crime analyst" . . . ?

Bakersfield RIGHT NOW has the resources to "Protect The Parks" (AND . . .the homeless!):


"Bakersfield, CA list of housing resources we have uncovered: Homeless Shelters, Supportive Housing, Halfway Housing, Transitional Housing, Day Shelters, Low Income Housing, Residential Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers."


LAURA LIERA (Californian Apr 27, 2013 . . . six years ago)

Progress . . . ? "Safe" . . . for them . . . ?

"Homelessness is a problem in Kern and in the state itself but it's not as simple as saying that a bill that would allow them to sleep in the streets is a solution," she said. "Realistically, it's not safe out there for them and there are not bathroom facilities for them to rely on."



Options . . . ?


Until we build more treatment facilities and long term board and care for the mentally I’ll then have them placed into those facilities , put them on SSI to pay for it with their SSI money, we will continue to have this epidemic. The police have to be able to pick them up and have a place to put them . This is the only humane thing to do. These poor souls need help. 99 percent are mentally I’ll and or drug addicted. It is a sad and disgustingly inhumane to have the clearly mentally ill wandering the streets filthy undead and I medicated. Shame on us all.


Unfed not undead and in medicated. Most families simply have given up on their loved ones because the system is stacked against them getting help. This has to change.


What SSI.....SSI is broke.


Interesting I know people who get checks for disability every month.


I'll = I will correct word is ill

Donna Semar

Agreed. Society treats animals more humanely than the mentally ill that need to be institutionalized and helped.


Exactly we have shelters for animals that give them medical treatment food and housing. But we can’t do this for human beings?


Sprinklers have timers set them to come on more often they move down the road


Where would YOU go to sleep if you had nowhere to go?! Very haughty n arrogant folks. There you go but for the grace of you know who. Mental issues and minds clouded by drugs. It happens to those you would never guess it could happen to. The “fun” of being amped up n partying gets them wanting to keep the party going—one day they have no idea that they have lost Control and all perspective. So there are folks zzzz in park. They need a restroom and sleeping in a group provides safety. They are scared. There are girls with no protectors. Shame on you. Go by and leave them a sandwich or two. Some oranges or apples. And some human kindness. Or a joint. Just be nice to those less fortunate. They are hurting bad enough without your self-righteous scorn.




The citizens who pay for the parks can't use them because the people who don't contribute to society have taken over the parks. The City cares more about the non-contributors than the contributors. Sad state of affairs.


Seriously, I have more sympathy for those that have about as little as humanly possible than the folks complaining about *people* as though they're pests.

It is a sad state of affairs, but not for the reasons you think.

Fram Smith

Other communities in California have developed strategies to stop the organic and chemically induced mentally ill who are homeless , from living in conditions that are breeding grounds for communicable disease outbreaks. Simply put , other communities have correctly identified this as a mental health and public health crisis. Some of the most deadly outbreaks of illness humanity has ever endured were created by people living in squalid conditions.Vote out the members of the Bakersfield City Council ; unless you are happy with the " gosh folks , we got better things to do and we can't do anything anyway". If you want a solution , vote.


It starts way higher than the city council. The voters themselves have created some of these problems by not completely reading the propositions that they vote on, or continually voting for people who want to ignore or encourage this type of problem. State laws have taken the teeth out of law enforcement, and people voting for propositions they don't fully understand have helped that happen. If Bakersfield doesn't get a handle on this problem soon, we will become San Francisco South.


Must be time to change some rules. It seems that so long as peoples needs are met, for the most part, they have no incentive to make changes. So the rules need adjusting.


"a man's hunger drives him on..." No hunger, no drive.


You clearly don’t understand mental health issues. And you do realize that a large percentage of homeless are veterans suffering from PTSD. You’re statement is based in ignorance and is not part of the solution.


A large percentage of homeless are also drug and alcohol addicts who don't want to get help because it would require them to sober up. Many of them refuse to go to shelters because the shelters won't allow them to drink or shoot up, so that issue needs to be addressed as well. The taxpayers, IE: people who actually contribute to society, are the ones who pay for these parks, and they should be able to use them without fear of being harassed, attacked, leered at, or hit up for money. They should be able to let their children play there without worrying about whether they will be kidnapped or approached by a pedophile. I'm NOT saying that this happens. But as a concerned parent, it would be thoughts that cross the mind. And then, there are the things you mention...mental illness...which is a concern in its own right.


Too bad McCauley doesn't realize these people are residents of Bakersfield just like she is. Just because they have fewer resources doesn't change that.


" . . . residents . . . "? And who 'owns' the parks . . . ?

And what 'residence addresses' do they give to BPD . . . ? Is it the 'public park' . . . ? (that is chartered for events or 'daily' recreational use by groups and individuals )

[Cal. Penal Code § 647(e) (West 2013) (“[E]very person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor: . . . (e) Who lodges in any building, structure, vehicle, or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession or in control of it.”). ]


Exactly! Thank You!


Would you like a trash-strewn, drug-infested hobo encampment in the beautiful park right across the street from your house? A park you cant use for fear of walking the gauntlet? A park you wouldn't want your children to play in because you don't know the history of the people who are hanging out there? I doubt it.


How about treating them as people first? Why should I care about *your* concerns when you don't care about others? I'm so sorry your "beautiful" park has been ruined bu the existence of other human beings. The true tragedy here is your expectation of empathy without being willing to be empathetic yourself.

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