Some business owners and workers in Stockton believe homeless people are becoming more of a serious threat and menace to businesses compared to past years.

Dave Toole, the owner of Toole’s Garage, said he has faced many issues when it comes to homeless people after opening his new business location last August across the street from Eden Park, a known location for homeless encampments.

Toole said he has had a vehicle stolen from his automotive repair shop, homeless tents set up in front of the walkway of his business and feces left by people.

Worker Alex Bernal cleans up human feces outside Toole’s Garage on El Dorado Street in Stockton. Local shop owners and their employees are growing increasingly frustrated with homelessness they say has impacted their businesses and safety. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

“We had a scenario where a customer brought in an RV, like a van with a camper, and it didn’t run so she had me push it out on the street because they were going to get it towed,” owner Dave Toole said. “Well, the homeless people grabbed it and pushed it across the street and moved into it.”

He said this occurred in the daytime and he and his employees had to tell the homeless people to vacate the vehicle, but they were aggressive.

Alex Bernal, an employee at Toole’s Garage, said while he was cleaning up the poop left in front of the auto shop, he also found a crack pipe.

Stockton home to the homeless

Recently, San Joaquin County held its biennial Point-in-Time Count, which attempts to track the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people and is required to receive state and federal funding to address homelessness.

Although data from the count won’t be released until later in the year, the 2019 count found that San Joaquin County had 2,629 homeless people, with Stockton accounting for 921 of those.

An employee sweeps the floor at Alfalfa’s Pizza on East Weber Avenue, where workers say they have been threatened by homeless people and lost business because of them. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

Connie Cochran with the city of Stockton said businesses having trouble with unhoused people should call the police as the issue is occurring, especially if they feel their safety is in jeopardy.

“Police will show up … they do have to prioritize where there is a life-threatening situation, they will go to the life-threatening situation first, but they will ultimately come,” Cochran said.

“Sometimes they are very aggressive, it depends on their mood. They come in and they want something for free and if we don’t help them out, they just throw things at us.”

Lorena Delgadillo, Alfalfa’s Pizza and Deli

She said depending on the problem, police can also send community service officers to the scene for assistance.

According to Cochran, the Police Department does follow up on complaints, but businesses do have to call for help in order for officers to have a record of where issues with homeless people are happening.

Workers at Alfalfa’s Pizza and Deli said they have also faced the aggression of homeless people in the area and have lost business because of the bother to customers.

Lorena Delgadillo, who has worked at the pizzeria for 20 years, said problems have gotten a lot worse because there are more people facing housing insecurity.

“Sometimes they are very aggressive, it depends on their mood,” Delgadillo said. “They come in and they want something for free and if we don’t help them out, they just throw things at us.”

She said often customers complain about homeless people being a pest about money or food and get upset about the scenes caused by them.

“We have customers actually call security or the police because they (a homeless person) was too much,” Delgadillo said.

‘I was trying to be nice to her’

Kylie Kimes, a barista working at the downtown Empresso Coffee location, said the homeless people near her workplace have vandalized her car, displayed their genitals to employees, called her and her co-workers offensive names, and have locked themselves in the bathrooms.

“Pamela, (a homeless woman) we usually don’t let her in, but I let her order and she said she paid for her coffee so I was trying to be nice to her … sometimes I just want to have a good day and get them out,” Kimes said. “My car was parked right there, and my co-worker was like ‘Dude she’s pouring that on your car’ … what she used to do was pour it on my other co-workers’ car.”

Kylie Kimes, a barista at Empresso Coffee House on North San Joaquin Street, had her car vandalized by a homeless woman who poured coffee on it. Kimes said other employees have had similar issues. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News)

She said the woman was not allowed back into the coffeehouse again, but weekly they encounter issues with the homeless population that surrounds the area.

Empresso and Alfalfa’s Pizza and Deli employees also voiced issues about people locking themselves in the bathroom and leaving a mess, which in turn doesn’t leave an available bathroom for paying customers.

“Sometimes they leave a really bad mess, and we have to clean it up and then have to close it for the customers because it was a mess,” Delgadillo said. “Sometimes they take showers in there or they’ll do drugs in there.”

Another option for downtown businesses having difficulties with homeless people is to get assistance from the Downtown Stockton Alliance’s safety ambassadors.

The Downtown Stockton Alliance is a private/public partnership that brings together nearly 1,000 property owners and businesses in the downtown area.

The safety ambassador program was created in February 2020 to provide additional “eyes and ears” in the downtown area and provide services to businesses in the area.

A measure of safety

Michael Huber, executive director for the Downtown Stockton Alliance, said while the program does not serve as security, it does offer courtesy escorts for people who don’t feel safe walking to their cars and in some cases helps talk with homeless people disrupting businesses as long as the situation is not dangerous.

“If it’s somebody that’s just a disturbance that we can maybe come and talk to and mentor, we are willing to do that,” Huber said.

The program also focuses on homeless outreach by giving out information and connecting unsheltered people with services that can help get them off the streets.

“We ask them how they’re doing, if they are in need of any medical attention … if they are tired of being in the streets we can give them some opportunities, connect them to human services,” Huber said.

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