NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Crews from Caltrans spent Friday morning clearing out a large homeless encampment along I-805 near the 16th Street bridge in National City.
There were roughly 75-100 people living in the camp in the past year, which was positioned on state property maintained by Caltrans, according to National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis.
“People think it’s our responsibility, (that) the city has jurisdiction,” Sotelo-Solis said. “We’ve come in and done cleanups, but we can’t displace. That’s Caltrans. We can’t remove.”
With pandemic restrictions in place for more than a year, no action was taken. That was until earlier this week when Caltrans told people to vacate the illegal camp site.
Councilmember Ron Morrison said he worked with the homeless in the camp and he talked to some of the people as they left on Friday.
“One says, ‘You kept warning us this was going to happen. It’s our fault. We kept bringing all the trash in,'” Morrison said.
Sotelo-Solis said the location was a safety hazard for the homeless and for nearby residents. City leaders say services are being offered to the homeless. Police told FOX 5 many from the camp refused those services.
Roberto Zapata, who lives in the area, said neighbors dealt with numerous issues related to the camp. He’s glad to see it gone.
“You can see them walking around looking for stuff to steal,” Zapata said. “They didn’t buy any of this stuff. They go around the houses. Anything they see in the front yard, they just come and take. It’s a free-for-all.”
But local homeless advocate Michael McConnell argues that eviction isn’t much of a solution.
“Let’s get folks into housing with the services they need,” McConnell said. “They didn’t do that here. They didn’t make a serious attempt here to get people out of homelessness. It’s not a solution and it’s a waste of money.”