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Local horse rancher says homeless people are ruining his business

KBAK/KBFX photo

Dennis Nate moved to Oildale about six years ago from Wyoming and bought a plot of land on Sycamore Drive.

He used some of his retirement money to convert his property into a horse ranch. His ranch has panoramic views of the Kern River and dozens of spacious stables that he uses to board horses, but a majority of them are empty because some clients don't feel safe there anymore.

"They want to come to my ranch, but as soon as they see the river, they tell me they don't feel safe," said Nate.

Outside of the ranch, homeless encampments are scattered throughout the riverbanks on a county horse trail. Nate said the homeless and transient community that occupies this public space are scaring his clients away.

"I'm angry, because we can't ride safe out there anymore," said one horse trainer at the ranch. "We can't ride horses. We can't walk. We can't enjoy the river and all the amenities that it has because the homeless are there."

Kern County officials have knocked down more than six of these encampments in the past several months, but it is not a permanent solution.

"One of the challenges we face is that these folks tend to move from property to property," said Al Rojas, supervisor for Kern County code compliance division. "Staying on top of where they are going and making sure they don't entrench themselves in another site has also been a challenge."

That is why the horse trainer and her group of friends are getting off the trails and riding in the streets, hoping it will raise awareness of the problem.

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