ENCINO, Calif. — Seventy-two-year-old Pat bates finds beauty is in wildlife. She's inspired to photograph anything moving, interesting or sometimes she says, it’s just lighting. Bates always had a passion for photographing nature, but pushed it aside for her career in accounting.
Finally she’s retired, and Bates is spending a lot more time outdoors, lately on a mission to save the Sepulveda Basin.
The Sepulveda Basin is to Valley residents what Central Park is to New Yorkers.
It's the heartbeat of the community, but Bates says the neglected homeless encampments are affecting the environment.
“This is an ecologically sensitive area. People are not supposed to fish. They’re not supposed to hunt,” she said.
One of her biggest concerns is the homeless living in the basin, and the dangers that come with them, like fires.
Bates said, “People build fires for heat or to cook, and if you get wind it can get out of control really quickly.”
Her home is less than two miles from the basin and she’s constantly worried. There have already been several fires in the last few weeks.
Despite all of this, it's a popular park and people still come to enjoy, turning a blind eye to the homeless. But these are sights Bates refuses to ignore.
When she noticed not much was being done to move the homeless to a safe place she had to do something. She reached out to lifelong Encino resident, Alex Garay, president of the neighborhood council.
Together they hike these trials weekly, looking for new homeless encampments.
When they stumbled across an unhoused woman hidden away in the bushes, Bates walked over to ask if homeless services had checked in.
Bates then snapped photos and geo-tagged the encampment location on L.A. Parks website, in hopes that local agencies like the Army Corps and sanitation will respond.
“The most important thing is that we find out where these poor individuals have gone so we can get them some service and hopefully find them some homes,” said Garay.
Garay says if it wasn’t for Bates, there’d be hundreds more encampments filling the basin. Bates is also working to have more enforcement by park rangers and is even advocating for the basin to be deemed a zoological garden.
That way she can get back to focusing her lens on nature's beauty.