There are growing concerns about the increasing number of illegal homeless camps along the Kern River. More and more people are living in tents on the river bottom right in the middle of town.
It's illegal, but it's home for dozens of people, young and old. "It's the only choice we had. We have no family, no friends," explained Aimee Gustafson.
For the last two months, Gustafson and her boyfriend have lived in a makeshift home, made up of tarps and blankets draped over tree branches.
"I wish I was in a house or an apartment with my kids. That's what I wish," continued Gustafson.
Everything Gustafson owns is inside a small space along the Kern River. Gustafson is quietly living in the trees, hidden from most of the community.
"People are just trying to survive out here," explained Matthew Myrs. For the past month, he has lived along the river with his girlfriend.
"It's scary at night. I let her sleep and I am up most of the time listening. So, I'm always alert," he said.
Myrs is one of more than two dozen people living in tents, tucked in the bushes, under the Chester Avenue bridge.
"This is the worst year I think I've seen it in a long time," said Bill Cooper, President of the Kern River Parkway Foundation.
Cooper said he remembers a day when he would walk along the river and it was much cleaner. "We just have to somehow get over this idea that anything goes down here," he continued.
There is trash everywhere along the river. 17 News found shopping carts, clothes, and candy wrappers. Behind a green tarp, we spotted a chair and a vacuum. For someone, it's a place to call home.
"It's difficult to kick them all out, because where do they go?" asked Cooper.
The people we talked to along the river don't want to go to a shelter.
"Sometimes it's convenience. Being able to go to those places, there's no rules and they can live the way they want to live and do what they want to do," said Tim Calahan, Mission at Kern County.
It's illegal to sleep along the river. If someone is caught by police sleeping along the riverbed, they can be cited.
Two police officers once patrolled the area on dirt bikes. But, they haven't been out to the area in six months because one bike is broken. The department has no plans to start again anytime soon.