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Homeless camp cleanup downtown

"It's not a cold and callous operation. We put up notices three days in advance"

All clean where SR-94 meets I-5. "We'll go back tonight and start over," said a tall blond man.
All clean where SR-94 meets I-5. "We'll go back tonight and start over," said a tall blond man.

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol cleared homeless camps around the Highway 94 off-ramps and I-5 overpasses next to downtown on Friday morning, September 4.

Around morning rush hour, homeless people gathered downhill from the clearing project, at 17th and F streets and 17th and G streets, many with their possessions in tow.

"My stuff is safe — I moved it to the sidewalk," said the tall blond man.

"We'll go back tonight and start over," said a tall blond man who trotted across stopped traffic to join the group. "My stuff is safe — I moved it to the sidewalk."

Caltrans and the CHP confirmed the cleanup operation.

"It's not a cold and callous operation. We put up notices three days in advance that we're coming on a certain time and date so people can get their belongings out of there," said Edward Cartagena, a Caltrans District 11 spokesman. "We have a crew out almost every day cleaning out downtown area camps around the I-5, the 163, and the 94."

Caltrans sends between two and four garbage trucks and a crew — with a CHP escort — to pick up trash and debris left at the camps, which are mostly empty of people by the time they arrive, Cartagena said.

"It's a triple-edged sword for us," he explained. "We get complaints about the trash and the sanitary concerns from people who live next to the freeway; there are sanitation and hygiene concerns with the camps, and motorists complain, but we also know that clearing out the camps doesn't solve the problem [of homelessness.]”

Many of those who were displaced headed to the Neil Good Day Center at 17th and K streets to wait in the shade or watch television — something several said was a normal part of the day anyway.

While the area was cleaned, some of the homeless ordered food from a truck next to the Neil Good Day Center.

Lisa K. waited outside the center after ordering a sandwich from a food truck. She said the cleanups are routine and not unexpected or particularly distressing.

Others, like John McHough, say that Caltrans takes their belongings and it's hard to get them back.

"If you're not there, they throw your medications, personal papers, and your sleeping bag in a garbage truck without any consideration on how you're going to live without it," McHough said. "They say you can get it back but you have to have proof it's yours — how do you prove it's your stuff when they took it?"

Cartagena says that Caltrans workers do set aside things that look like they may be of value to people — backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, and such.

"If anything is left behind that appears to be of value, we keep it for 30 days and people can claim it," he said. "We've returned numerous items to people. But we don't go through their things — that's an invasion of privacy. So, it's hard when someone calls us and says all my documentation was in a black trash bag — we're not going to rifle through trash bags."

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All clean where SR-94 meets I-5. "We'll go back tonight and start over," said a tall blond man.
All clean where SR-94 meets I-5. "We'll go back tonight and start over," said a tall blond man.

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol cleared homeless camps around the Highway 94 off-ramps and I-5 overpasses next to downtown on Friday morning, September 4.

Around morning rush hour, homeless people gathered downhill from the clearing project, at 17th and F streets and 17th and G streets, many with their possessions in tow.

"My stuff is safe — I moved it to the sidewalk," said the tall blond man.

"We'll go back tonight and start over," said a tall blond man who trotted across stopped traffic to join the group. "My stuff is safe — I moved it to the sidewalk."

Caltrans and the CHP confirmed the cleanup operation.

"It's not a cold and callous operation. We put up notices three days in advance that we're coming on a certain time and date so people can get their belongings out of there," said Edward Cartagena, a Caltrans District 11 spokesman. "We have a crew out almost every day cleaning out downtown area camps around the I-5, the 163, and the 94."

Caltrans sends between two and four garbage trucks and a crew — with a CHP escort — to pick up trash and debris left at the camps, which are mostly empty of people by the time they arrive, Cartagena said.

"It's a triple-edged sword for us," he explained. "We get complaints about the trash and the sanitary concerns from people who live next to the freeway; there are sanitation and hygiene concerns with the camps, and motorists complain, but we also know that clearing out the camps doesn't solve the problem [of homelessness.]”

Many of those who were displaced headed to the Neil Good Day Center at 17th and K streets to wait in the shade or watch television — something several said was a normal part of the day anyway.

While the area was cleaned, some of the homeless ordered food from a truck next to the Neil Good Day Center.

Lisa K. waited outside the center after ordering a sandwich from a food truck. She said the cleanups are routine and not unexpected or particularly distressing.

Others, like John McHough, say that Caltrans takes their belongings and it's hard to get them back.

"If you're not there, they throw your medications, personal papers, and your sleeping bag in a garbage truck without any consideration on how you're going to live without it," McHough said. "They say you can get it back but you have to have proof it's yours — how do you prove it's your stuff when they took it?"

Cartagena says that Caltrans workers do set aside things that look like they may be of value to people — backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, and such.

"If anything is left behind that appears to be of value, we keep it for 30 days and people can claim it," he said. "We've returned numerous items to people. But we don't go through their things — that's an invasion of privacy. So, it's hard when someone calls us and says all my documentation was in a black trash bag — we're not going to rifle through trash bags."

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Comments
11

Not a cold and callous operation? Unless your helping them move their property to a new location where they can camp I have to differ.

Still once again the police have to deal with the short comings of our capitalist economic system.

Sept. 4, 2015

Nothing could be colder or more callous than throwing people's belongings away. So now they have nothing, they live on the streets and the people that complain feel justified in their self righteousness. Here are the cold hard facts. These "evictions" or "relocations" end up being a revolving camp merry go round. They move them from the trolley line between Island and Imperial Ave and they continually move them east until they end up at that freeway encampment and they keep getting moved, their only belongings going with them. It is a vicious and sad cycle. I've been witnessing it for years. It's sad and disheartening when you know that there are resources available but the conditions for that roof and warm bed are usually asking these non-conformists or even the drug addled for too much.

Yeah, we are capitalist pigs.

Sept. 4, 2015

"The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference." --Oscar Wilde

Sept. 4, 2015

Most of these homeless are chronic and do not want to do the things necessary to get off drugs and alcohol. No matter how society tires there will always be human trash. There are many programs private and public that the homeless can avail themselves of but that all have rules. Bums are bums always have been and always will be. Those who are mentally ill have been declared free by Reagan and the ACLU.

Sept. 5, 2015

I have mixed feelings about the situation. My own belief is that the homeless have the right the sleep outside. They should be left alone so long as long as they are not creating a big public nuisance. There is some homeless that live in Bill Cleator park by Correia Jr high in Pt Loma. They do not tend to cause much problems. But any time you have large numbers of them there will be problems. The Caltrans people showed compassion by setting aside their backpacks and sleeping bags.

Sept. 5, 2015

Thanks to some bad choices many years ago, I was once on one of the Caltrans crews that cleaned up some of those camps. No notice was given, and we got rid of everything that was there. At least they are given notice in advance now.

Sept. 5, 2015

There's lots of room in Montana and Wyoming. Even some jobs for those who are willing to be sober and work. In South Dakota almost any man can get a job in the oil fields. Homelessness is a choice. Staying in a high priced, competitive urban environment is not a good choice when you lack skills. I do have a soft spot for the veterans among the homeless and feel we should be helping them more. They helped us (or so to speak, depending on how you feel about the perma-wars America is engaged in these days). But for the drug addicted and the alcoholics, it's a choice. They were not born that way. There is help at churches, outreach and non-profit orgs. If they can't obey the rules, I can't feel any shame that they live on the streets. There are consequences for our behaviors.

Sept. 5, 2015

I rest Wilde's case.

Sept. 5, 2015

by Elie Wiesel, not Wilde.

Sept. 5, 2015

Or something similar: "The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity." — George Bernard Shaw

Sept. 6, 2015

I cited Shaw for decades before being corrected, possibly by Don Bauder, but I don't have an exact reference to the original work. If I were to correct someone, I would include the reference, including page number and date.

Sept. 7, 2015

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