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Riverbed in San Benito County being cleared of homeless encampments

SAN BENITO COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Supervisors in San Benito County are working to help clear the San Benito Riverbed from homeless encampments.

On Tuesday night, the County Board of Supervisors discussed an emergency ordinance to discuss homelessness in the county. Supervisors are examining the abatement being carried out along the riverbed that has filled with years of people's belongings and trash.

There are efforts to move people to a new tent area near a site on Buena Vista Road and the county's vacant jail acreage property.

Kollin Kosmicki, the supervisor for district two, says a fire in April along the riverbed became an eye-opening moment for the need to address the issue.

"The encampments are really just out of control to be frank, It's not just a few tents here and there. There are vehicles, there's a slew of garbage down there. It's really getting to a point where it's out of control," said Kosmicki.

It's taken about two months, yet there are now plans on temporarily moving individuals into a tent facility near the San Benito County Jail, near Flynn Road.

"And so having them near the jail site is a good spot because it's near services, behavioral health service services, health and human services, social workers, and the homeless shelter services are right in that same area and it's still close enough to town," said Kosmicki.

Over the years, the problem has worsened at the riverbed with a slew of fire and other potential health and safety risks. However, the mayor of Hollister doesn't agree with the idea of the tent facility.

"We have proven here that our shelter works and if we have an issue with needing more space, I've recommended to the county that we use the conference room that they have in the facility for additional beds until we get a larger facility built which I think is better because the services are there. If you create a tent city but don't have services, it's going to create problems for us," said Ignacio Velazquez.

According to the latest homeless census completed in 2019, around 282 individuals are experiencing home insecurity. Kosmicki says due to the limits of the lease at the current homeless shelter, there cannot be further expansion in to the conference room.

Currently, there is one homeless shelter that houses the homeless with a total of 50 beds in San Benito County. However, he emphasizes the tent facility near the county jail is only temporary with more long-term solutions in the works.

"The tent facility that we're putting up is a short-term temporary solution. It's meant to give us some flexibility so that we have a little bit of time of really plan aggressively for medium and long-term solutions such as additional shelter space, a tiny home village, and a good amount of transitional housing," said Kosmicki.

Kosmicki says they are also looking into creating an anti-camping ordinance.

News / San Benito County / Video
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Veronica Macias

Veronica Macias is an evening anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

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Stephanie Aceves

Stephanie Aceves is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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