Several businesses and homeowners in the 900 block of Lander Avenue and immediate area are fed up with what they deem to be an on-going homeless encampment behind their establishments and property.
Jalos Auto Sales, Ruiz Tire Shop, along with Rita’s Hair Salon, and a national chain restaurant all have store fronts that face Lander Avenue, but behind them is the dead-end of Eighth Street, which butts up against Lander.
Across Lander is Salvation Army Turlock.
All of the businesses say they are fed up with the encampment, which can include anywhere from 20 to more than 40 homeless people every single day.
Overnight the vast majority of the homeless people will stay in the Salvation Army parking lot, where they are welcome to do so. But in the morning hours they literally migrate across Lander Avenue and set up their village — linking together dozens of shopping carts and makeshift shelters.
Barbara Collins, a shift supervisor at the chain restaurant, says the homeless people will leave human feces behind the businesses back door (which this reporter witnessed directly), allegedly harass employees and customers, come into the establishment allegedly intoxicated or high on drugs and have allegedly even damaged the store front. On regular occurrences the homeless will use the business’ exterior water sources to wash themselves, naked.
“It’s not safe. There have been incidents where they have threatened to shoot our employees and customers,” said Collins. “We’ve been here for three years and it’s never been this bad as it has been in the past 6 or 8 months. We’ve called the police at least three times but they have their hands tied. What will it take until someone does something? Do we have to wait until someone gets attacked? No one will help us. Why should I have to go to social media before the city will do something about this?”
Collin’s is not alone in her concerns. Rita Gonzalez, the owner of Rita’s Hair Salon, says the homeless people have scared small children who come into her Salon for haircuts and says her business is the slowest its been since it opened 14 years ago.
Gonzalez also owns a house on the other side of Eighth Street and says she has been trying to sell it, but when potential buyers come to look at it they are immediately scared off by the homeless village.
“I can’t sell my house because of them,” said Gonzalez. “I’ve had to spend $2,000 to put up a fence to keep the homeless out of the house as it was being remodeled.
“The homeless camp has been there for about 8 months and we’ve called the police three times but nothing happens.”
Ray Jalo, the owner of Jalo Auto Sales and Ruiz Tire Shop says he will come to work in the morning and homeless people will be washing his cars and mopping the concrete walkway to the storefront, and then expect some sort of payment for their unsolicited efforts.
He says they will also use an exterior tire bath container to wash themselves, as well as exterior electrical outlets to charge their cell phones.
“They’ve used a lot of water and electricity that I have to pay for,” said Jalos. “Really, I think a lot of them are crazy in the head, they need to be in a hospital, not out on the streets. Everyday there are more and more coming. I’ve never seen it this bad.”
Jalos also says he has contacted police to no avail.
After being contacted by TurlockCityNews.com, the Turlock Police Department and the City of Turlock Neighborhood Services, which is under the Turlock Fire Department, are now in collaboration to help resolve the issues these businesses are facing.
Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman says Neighborhood Services is well aware of the situation the businesses are facing.
“It’s similar to one year ago, to the problems business owners Downtown had at Denair Park,” said Lohman. “We understand their plight and concerns and we are working with Turlock PD to what strategies we can use.”
Legally, the homeless people’s property cannot be taken unless given a 7-day notice. However, the homeless will work the system and leave and come back after the notice expires.
Lohman says that one of the strategies they have begun to implement to move the homeless village is to issue trespassing warnings.
Another officer with Neighborhood Services, who did not want to be identified, said that often many of the homeless will have warrants and that in the past officials have used those warrants to help thin out the numbers of homeless.
TurlockCityNews.com will follow up in the coming weeks to make sure the business owners are content with the efforts of the City of Turlock to address their concerns.