NATIONAL CITY, Calif. (KGTV) - Caltrans crews on Friday began clearing out a large homeless encampment in National City that is visible along southbound Interstate 805 near the 16th Street bridge.
A resident in the area told ABC 10News that the encampment has been there for a while but started to grow the past few months.
On Thursday, Caltrans sent ABC 10News the following statement regarding the encampment cleanup:
"Consistent with CDC guidance to prevent community spread of COVID-19, Caltrans proceeds with encampment cleanups if there is an immediate safety concern or threat to critical infrastructure. Caltrans continues to work in partnership with local agencies to provide services and alternatives for shelter to people experiencing homelessness, and to clean trash and debris from encampments.
The encampment at I-805 is scheduled for removal in the next 10 days after an immediate fire threat was identified following a blaze at the location on Saturday, May 15.
Where an encampment poses a critical safety concern or an immediate threat to infrastructure necessitating removal, the department coordinates with law enforcement and other local partners to mitigate threats to infrastructure and to address critical safety concerns, or other imminent dangers to people in encampments or the public."
National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis said the cleanup is expected Friday and local agencies and organizations have been sent to the encampment to register people there for services and emergency housing opportunities.
"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community; again, we want to be compassionate," the mayor said. Sotelo-Solis also added that the residents in the area also deserve the peace of mind and a safe community.
Sotelo-Solis also pointed out the sanitation and safety risks for the people living in the encampment over I-805.
"Just a slip and a fall, you could be on the 805 freeway," she said. "There are no public restrooms, and there are no water systems."
Groups that help the homeless stopped by Thursday evening to help people at the encampment. Mandy Lien is with one of the groups that gave them bags to pack their belongings. They also gave them trash bags and snacks.
"We want to make sure they have ample time to get their belongings together and so they're not forced to do it last minute and leave things," Lien said.
Lien believes whatever help is being offered isn't enough and that most will end up finding another place to camp.
"I think if you're going to move them, I think you need something in place to help them," she added.