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Life on the Riverbed: Families living in Salinas Riverbed after being priced out of housing

KING CITY, Calif. (KION-TV)- In South Monterey County, more and more little homes are springing up along the freeway in King City.  

The construction ingenuity isn’t noticeable from the highway overpass at exit 282, however, once KION visited with families there we noticed all the work and hard labor.  

It’s an encampment filled with innocence and laughter.  

In total, there are three families who call the Salinas Riverbed in King City home, the Parral, Gonzalez, and Santiago’s.  

Read more: Life on the Riverbed: Finding permanent housing for families living in Salinas Riverbed

For long hours throughout the day, things are quiet before 4 p.m. while almost everyone is out working in the fields after a 3 a.m. start.  

Marbella usually isn’t out picking grapes and instead is caring for all the kids.  

“I always try to make them soups from scratch, right now my son’s not feeling well,” said Gonzalez.  

Marbella immigrated more than a year ago. She waited months at a shelter in the city of Matamoros, Mexico before being granted asylum.  

Working in the fields, she earns around $600.00 a week. It’s not enough to cover a motel room and food. Soon, the woman she pays to help care for all the kids won’t be available.

While she’s hopeful she’ll have a roof over her head one day, she’s grateful for all the help they’ve already received. Her son Alin will start school in the fall.  

“I came to this country to give my son a better future. Where we come from getting services for my special needs child is very expensive and I would have to travel very far for help. In this country, while I’m living in complete poverty, I still feel protected by the government. Police officers come through here often," said Marbella.

Frequent visits by King City Police could be the reason why six-year-old Ricardo says he wants to be a police officer when he grows up.  Along the riverbed, the women say they’ve never been approached by gang members to sell drugs like they were back home.  

For Ricardo’s mother Cinthia, she’s not so sure the fight for the American Dream has been worth the long journey. Twice now they’ve been displaced.  

First by a fire during a severe drought back in 2022, which destroyed their encampment and belongings.  

Second by flooding this past winter.  

“I haven’t been able to find a spot to rent a trailer which was given to me. I’ve looked everywhere, King City, Gonzales, Greenfield to Soledad, said Cinthia.  

In between the fire and the floods, the family lived in trailers at the Salinas Valley fairgrounds for six months. However, they weren’t allowed to stay there permanently.  

King City just approved an interim ‘Riverbed Homeless Strategy’ to help people transition out of the riverbed and find a path to permanent housing.  

If we don’t work together and each community does its part, it’s just a problem that’s going to get bigger and bigger. Still, everyone is affected by it, even though it’s not in our part yard,” said King City Manager Steven Adams. 

This is part one of a two-part series. We sit down with King City Manager Steven Adams and discuss how the people living in the riverbed will be relocated and what will be done to help them transition.

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Veronica Macias

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


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