A pastor in Oildale is taking some heat for his efforts to provide shelter for the homeless. The camp continues to grow even though the church has two weeks to comply with the county's building codes.
It's not your typical camp site. Pastor Eddie Houghtaling of Church, Inc. opened his church grounds for the homeless to pitch tents.
“I spent most of my life in a tent,” said Robert Haynes, who has lived near the Kern River for years. “It's all good. It's mine.”
Haynes has lived in a red, white and blue tent with his dog “Cowboy” for the last week. He said it beats living in any shelter.
“Shelters are a joke to me. They got rules and regulations,” he said. “You have to get up and leave, and then you have to run amuck on the streets.”
Kern County Code Compliance officers gave the church camp until January 11th to contact them and learn how to comply with their standards.
“The zoning on that property does not allow people to sleep in tents,” said Chuck Lackey, Director of the Kern County Engineering, Surveying, and Permit Services Department.
The county says the church may have to move the homeless to another site that can better accommodate tent living. If the church doesn't abide by the safety code soon, the camp could get shut down.
"We're doing everything we're supposed to be doing," said Pastor Eddie. “So we're not going to worry about tomorrow as the Bible says, because today has enough problems of its own.”
He says safety and sanitation are the camp's priority. “For the most part we have latrines, outhouses, hand sanitizer, we have a shower back there and people are showering.”
He says people are also showering the camp with donations of food and clothing. One woman said she cleaned out her closet and cabinets and gave the camp blankets and prepared food.
“I’ve been hearing about this camp through my friends and on Facebook, and I just wanted to give what I had,” said Lorrae Harrison, who says she plans to come back to donate more tents and sleeping bags.
"When you stand up for the cause of the poor and the needy, who are not able to do it for themselves, things happen out of nowhere," Pastor Eddie says.
And, it's people like Pastor Eddie who make “Tent City” home for Haynes.
“You actually have people who care,” he said. “Down there at the river, it's hard to tell if they care or not.”