Homeless Camps a Growing Problem

By: 
Eric Bailey

Homeless encampments along the embankment of local freeways are becoming more of a common sight as California continues to deal with its housing crisis.

A controversial topic for anyone to take on, teetering the line of human rights violations to public eyesores, homeless encampments and the issues surrounding them are a growing concern for Long Beach residents.

In just one week in February, the Long Beach Fire Department was tasked in putting out at least three fires along freeway embankments caused by encampments.

CalTrans is aware of the situation and is mindful of the people within those.

“Caltrans is proceeding with encampment cleanups if there is an immediate safety concern or threat to critical infrastructure,” said Eric Menjivar, Public Relations Officer for CalTrans District 7. “We will continue to work with cities and other partners to move people into safer situations as available.”

A good portion the local public feels that sheltering people needs to happen before removal of their makeshift housing along freeways and public roads.

According to an April 6 survey conducted by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavy Center for the Study of Los Angeles, 61% of county residents agree that some type of shelter needs to be in place before removal of any encampments can occur.

CalTrans echoes the public’s consensus.

“When people experiencing homelessness receive local services, they are less likely to return to encampments on the state’s right-of-way,” Menjivar said.

The city outlined an action plan Feb. 4 that would allocate nearly $800,000 in funds reallocated from the Small Business Restart Grant Program after only $213,206 was able to be dispersed to eligible businesses financially impacted by the unrest on May 31, 2020. The city allotted $1 million for the program.

Recent guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding COVID-19 protocols for public cleaning and the city being required to store personal items collected from clean ups have slowed efforts, but the city seems eager and willing to combat the issue.

Residents are doing what they can to help combat the issue as well.

Duke Givens, founder of Care Closet LBC uses a combination of donated goods and monetary resources to motivate people to get involved not just in cleanups, but charitable work for the homeless community.

“I’ve been using every cent I get and give it to the unhoused as an hourly wage,” Givens told the Long Beach Post in a February interview.

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