NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Throwing in boxes, bags and suitcases at a homeless encampment in National City, state crews cleared the area at I-805 Southbound and the E 16th street overpass.
“We’re cleaning it up, they moved on, but we want to make sure this does not happen again,” said National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis.
On Tuesday, CALTRANS, the California Department of Transportation posted a "notice to vacate illegal campsite" at the encampment that gave all those living in tents along freeway embankment 72 hours to leave or violation will result in citation and/or arrest.
One man named Jesse moving his grocery cart packed with blankets and clothes said he didn’t know where he was going to go next.
“It’s called nowhere, I don’t know...I’m just go with the flow,” Jesse said.
Showing a side-by-side comparison, in just three days, the encampment went from being filled with rows of tents and heaps of trash to Friday with CALTRANS crews on the ground with trash trucks, clearing the way.
“In the next two days, we are going to see this entire area cleaned up. Know that we are not sitting on our laurels. We are not going to stop. This is not okay because this is also happening in the entire region,” Sotelo-Solis said.
Sotelo-Solis says she’s relieved that finally the roadside eyesore that has been a stressor on the city and nearby residents is shutdown, but more help is needed.
“You see all this stuff that’s accumulated out here, this really goes to show you that we need more housing, we need more services. We’re calling on the governor really to give us the help,” Sotelo-Solis said.
One man named Erwin carrying a guitar and a duffel bag says after leaving the encampment, he wants to go somewhere safe, where there is a bathroom and a big trashcan.
Officer Steven Anderson of the National City Police Department offered resources.
“I don’t think today is going to solve the issue, I think it is going to solve a headache for a lot of our residents in the area,” said Anderson, who has served on the Homeless outreach team for two years and knows most of the unsheltered by name.
He asked Jesse, “What about the shelter, I know we’ve talked several times about the shelter?”
Jesse told him “The shelter… It’s pretty much the same as out here ain’t it?”
Officer Anderson says he is on site every Wednesday with the McAlister Institute offering drug treatment, housing vouchers and work programs. But he says those unsheltered rarely accept the help citing too many rules, mental illness and drug abuse. On Friday a full bucket of needles were found.
“That just goes to show that just how much drug abuse is going on up here,” Anderson said.
Leaders hope this massive clean-up means a fresh start and not a new encampment across the freeway.
Anderson says, “In my experience this will be an ongoing issue, they will be back very soon.”
Watch Related: Drone Footage: National City homeless encampment clean up (May 21, 2021)