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Community split about metal bars on benches deterring homeless


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    LODI, California (KOVR) — There’s a literal divide in Lodi on how to handle the homeless population in the downtown area.

New metal bars have appeared on benches, meant to deter people from sleeping there. Though, there’s still mystery surrounding who’s behind it.

“They’re everywhere – and on all the benches,” said Joey Barrows, who dined in Lodi on Friday.

He noticed the metal bars almost immediately. Employees in the downtown area did, too. Kendra, who works nearby, saw them earlier in the week.

“They just appeared out of nowhere,” she said.

Kendra often notices the homeless community outside of her store as she’s on the clock.

“Some of them do kind of yell, go a little crazy and harass people,” she said. “It’s sometimes a little scary.”

The issue has many people split on how to deal with the deterrent. Locals like Jeff Peter understand why these new bars were placed.

“They put the bars up to keep people from sleeping on the benches,” Peter said.

But there’s still a mystery of where these bars came from. Around town, everyone has a different answer. Was it a private citizen, or a frustrated business owner taking matters into their own hands?

For some people, it doesn’t matter who did it. They just want it gone.

“They already don’t have those opportunities and you’re already making life for them worse,” said Jennifer Noyola, a local young activist in the area.

She and her friend, Cassandra Foster, were immediately upset at the sight. Feeling for the homeless community, they called into the Lodi City Council meeting earlier in the week to air their grievances. But at that meeting, the city took no responsibility.

“Not a city project, somebody took it upon themselves to put them on city property,” said Steve Schwabauer, during the April 7 Zoom meeting.

Schwabaur is the Lodi city manager.

Noyola and Foster are now left wondering if the city didn’t place them, why are they still up?

“That’s the question is why aren’t they facing consequences?” Noyola said.

Many business owners spoke with CBS13 off-camera, explaining different hostile and harassing situations they’ve personally encountered with the homeless. They support something like this, and believe something needed to be done to keep their staff and customers safe.

“It keeps the business people from coming down and hassling these guys,” said Peter.

CBS13 reached out to the City of Lodi multiple times to ask if the metal bars will stay up long-term, and if they learn who put them there – could that person face any sanctions? No one was available to take our questions.

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