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Santa Maria PD cracking down on homeless camping

Santa Maria Police are cracking down on a homeless camping issue that they say has been an on-and-off problem for years.

“Well right now I’m on the street,” Shelly Sterbonic said.

Shelly Sterbonic hasn’t always been homeless.

“I’m used to living on my own, you know, doing for myself,” Shelly Sterbonic said.

Sterbonic recently moved from her hometown of Fresno to Santa Maria – trying to get a fresh start. She was staying with family but says that just wasn’t working. She’s been in and out of motels.

“I had a stroke in brain busted, they gave me two minutes to live,” Sterbonic said.

She says she’s been on disability and unable to work ever since.

“And when I came up here and found out how much the rent is..I just about…my heart dropped,” Sterbonic said.

Santa Maria Police recently started cracking down on illegal camping and is writing tickets.

“And with one income, it’s hard, it’s very hard,” Sterbonic said.

Sterbonic recently got one of those tickets – but she says if she stays out of trouble…

“They will dismiss the charges,” Sterbonic said.

Santa Maria Police say this illegal camping issue has actually improved since they started the enforcement because once they give someone one ticket, they don’t want another.

“We have been getting some complaints from the public and the business owners,” Santa Maria Police Sgt. Eligio Lara said.

Police say drugs, alcohol and mental illness can all be factors.

“Simply they can’t afford to go get a place to live at, it might be that they lost their job,” Sgt. Lara said.

These tickets are a misdemeanor and are about $200.

“If they look like the type that’s not going to take no for an answer, I’ll turn around and go back to my car and go somewhere else,” shopper Chelcie Holguin said.

“I have a real soft spot for the people that stand on corners or are just trying to live because they can’t get jobs,” shopper Cindy Dacon said.

“Now I’m trying to find a shelter or somewhere that’ll accept me but I’m having a problem with that,” Sterbonic said.

Sterbonic says she’s going to keep hanging in there.

“Thanks to the Lord, he’s not ready for me to come home yet,” Sterbonic said.

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