Los Banos pastor, Parks & Rec. commissioner shares concerns about city council not helping homeless enough

On August 29, 2022 by Los Banos City Council Public Forum Comment

The following public comment was submitted for the Los Banos City Council special meeting on Wednesday, August 17, 2022, but read verbatim into the record during the Public Forum portion of the council’s special meeting on Thursday, Aug. 25. Flores is the Administration Pastor at Bethel Community Church in Los Banos and one of the members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.

“Good Evening Members of the Council and Mayor Faria,

My name is Kimberlee Subia Flores and I am a 3rd generation resident of Los Banos. I serve as a pastor on staff at Bethel Community Church and as one of your Parks & Rec. commissioners. As most of you know, Bethel operates a food pantry that serves anyone in need in the surrounding area, including our homeless community. They come to us for food, hygiene items, showers and to connect for other services they are in need of.

I find it interesting that once again our community and council members are choosing to share together in a small mindset and “not in my backyard” mentality. Several years ago, when funding was secured by local organizations and sites were proposed for a homeless shelter, we were told time and time again “not in my backyard”. That was 15 years ago. Los Banos has always been coined a “small town”. I would like to just serve a reminder to everyone that being a “small town” does not require a small mindset. In fact, I prefer to call Los Banos a “growing town” and would love to be able to say that we also have a growth mindset.

I have watched our council meetings as complaints have been waged against our homeless community, and I think what is most disheartening to me is that we have forgotten that these are people. While the concerns voiced may be valid, they are a part of OUR community, and that encampment is their HOME. 

In saying that, I would like to remind the Council and mayor that it is YOUR job to represent US, the residents of Los Banos and like it or not you also represent every single one of those residents at the containment area as well as every other encampment in our city, not just housed residents. I would hope that you have not willingly neglected to represent that segment of our community, and if you have, that you would choose to rectify your lack of representation.

I know that it sounded like a grand plan to send Code Enforcement to round them all up and herd them to the containment area, but now we see there were flaws in that plan. Instead of collaborating and correcting those flaws, we are wanting once again to herd them all up and drive them out again. So, let’s just repeat the same mistake twice?? Where will they go? Do you have any answers?

I don’t understand how any of this can sit well with anyone. I implore EACH of you to move from those cushy chairs in the council chambers and actually visit the containment area and speak to the residents there before you drive them out like cattle. I know that you will find it much harder to do so when you actually have to look them in the eye and hear their stories.

At the last council meeting I heard our wonderful mayor say that “Los Banos is a town of families” and he is absolutely correct. We are a town of families and every one of those residents in the containment area has a family, and as a resident of Los Banos they become OUR family. We are ONE. We must not forget that.

I understand that $1,000,000 is earmarked for the animal shelter administrative buildings in the upcoming budget. I am an animal lover and I feel the funds earmarked for the animal shelter are necessary, but I find it appalling that we are so concerned with the animal shelter but for our human residents without shelter, we have no answers. 

We need answers. 

Form a commission, collaborate with those who have done it well and formulate some plausible solutions to the neediest among us! 

We can do BETTER! I charge each of YOU to be a part of the solution alongside the organizations already doing their best to help. We need to find a feasible, temporary solution for our current homeless community until a permanent shelter facility can be built and staffed. Funds MUST be earmarked, grants MUST be written, funding must be acquired, and we HAVE to help our homeless community. We must not wait any longer.

As Councilwoman Lewis stated at the last council meeting, you must do what would be a “good testament to being a council member”. 

You cannot overlook this any longer. I know the work will be long and hard, but it must not be avoided. As she so eloquently spoke in regards to the animal shelter, “times are changing, we need to change with the times to be better.” So, it is with our homeless community as well.

I know that venturing to the encampments may not be something you are comfortable with, but our team at Bethel would love to take you out and interact with those who are unsheltered. We never know, one of those in our homeless community may very well have the solution. If you aren’t able to do that, join us at Bethel any Friday at 9:00 am. I’m sure our homeless community would love to know you SEE them too.

We must remember that our homeless community is “the least of these” and our lives should overflow with mercy, love and compassion. May Los Banos be known for that.

Thank You For Your Time,

Kimberlee Subia Flores”

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