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Homeless people making camp at Merced school district site

One of the places local homeless people have been staying of late is a North Merced school district office, and their presence there is not welcomed.

George Sziraki, the Merced Union High School District's assistant superintendent for educational services, confirmed Wednesday that officials have received complaints about the homeless camping at the instructional support center at Olive Avenue and G Street.

Sziraki said his office has contacted the Merced Police Department and posted "no trespassing" signs at the complex, which used to be system headquarters before the district relocated to the Castle Commerce Center.

The Olive Avenue office is used just for staff development purposes. No students are served at the center.

Bruce Fultz, a French Camp continuation school teacher who has lived in Merced since 2000, said he noticed homeless people at the complex about 5 a.m. as he began his commute to the Stockton area each morning.

Fultz worried some of the homeless could threaten youngsters using the adjacent playing field, or employees using the instructional center.

Lt. Andre Matthews of the Merced police said the homeless population has been moving from one location to another. He said police and the school district need to work together to come up with a solution.

Matthews said it's not known if some of the homeless have criminal intent or mental health issues, concerns also voiced by Fultz.

"This is a problem we have to address all over town," Matthews said. "If they are working late, it can be frightening for employees confronted by the homeless."

Scott Scambray, district superintendent, responded to a letter by Fultz criticizing the district's response to the problem. Scambray told Fultz not to jump to conclusions about the district's concern for student safety at schools.

Scambray said safety is the district's No. 1 concern in dealing with 10,000 students a day and more than 1,000 employees at nine sites.

Kelly Bentz, the district's child welfare, attendance and safety program administrator, said the homeless are always gone by the time employees get there in the morning, and that whenever employees encountered the homeless they were always polite and did not create any damage.

Fultz said the homeless seem to use the district complex mainly on the weekends and that he saw some vagrants there as recently as last Sunday. Some were camped under a hedge on the property, and their shopping carts were visible.

Matthews said the homeless have moved on from the nearby apartments and shopping complex on the other side of G Street. He said extra patrols may be needed at the district site.

Reporter Doane Yawger

can be reached at dyawger@ or (209) 385-2407.