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Shelter a problem for homeless in summer months
camping regs
During the daytime, local homeless rest on blankets in a public park. At night, when the parks are closed, the homeless have nowhere to go. - photo by Journal file photo

Between the months of March to November, local homeless have a hard time finding a place to lay their heads at night.

The City of Turlock’s camping ordinance remains highly enforced and there is no shelter available during the summer months leaving the homeless, well, homeless.

“It’s harder for us,” said George, homeless person who wished to keep his last name confidential. “We have to move from place to place and we have to figure out where to store our stuff.”

The city’s Camping on Public Property Ordinance under the Turlock Municipal Code Chapter 5-20 defines camping as “to pitch or occupy camp facilities; to use camp paraphernalia.” They also define camp facilities as “tents, huts or temporary shelters.” Camp paraphernalia is defined as “tarpaulins, cots, beds, sleeping bags, hammocks.”

According to the ordinance, it is unlawful for anyone to camp in any park, street or public parking lot or public area, improved or unimproved.

When the temporary homeless shelters are closed between March and November, the places where a homeless person can go at night are limited.

George said he and his friends usually move from park to park, but are often warned for breaking the camping ordinance.

“One night we were moved twice in one night,” George said. “We can’t avoid it. We move from one spot to another. They would just prefer to get us as far away from the city limits as possible.”

To try to stay in compliance with the camping ordinance, George said that some people use blankets, cardboard and even their jackets to keep warm at night. But finding a place to sleep is a bit harder.

“There is no where safe we can go without being harassed,” George said. “It’s hard no matter what you do. We can’t lie on a blanket and sleep but any other family can. It is because we are homeless.”

The camping ordinance is enforced by the Turlock Police Department through response to complaints and through officers on patrol, said Turlock Police Sgt. Nino Amirfar.

When officers see homeless people camping they will give them the opportunity to re-locate and to leave, Amirfar said. They are usually given warnings before they are given a citation.

Giving citations to the homeless people for illegally camping within city limits rarely happens, he said. Warnings usually help re-locate the homeless.

Police typically see an increase an illegal camping during night time when parks are closed and during the winter when the homeless set up shelters to protect themselves from the weather, Amirfar said.

Even though George admits the summer months are the best for sleeping outside compared to the winter, constantly being asked to re-locate at 2 a.m. is quite bothersome.

“It is hard,” George said. “No matter what you do, a concerned citizen will complain. We have nowhere to go.”

To contact Maegan martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.