■ Olivia Gildea / Reporter
A homeless encampment near East Florida Avenue and Lake Street has been disbanded and cleaned out by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Code Enforcement.
Workers onsite spent several hours Friday, March 9, removing trash and items like toys, books, children’s clothing and makeshift furniture. Several makeshift homes were discovered and destroyed, including homes that appeared to have been dug into the dirt on the edge of the embankment.
It is unknown how long the encampment had been there, though it is assumed it began as a means for homeless to live in an unseen, yet walkable, area. What may have started as a small group had developed into a sort of community—one that required a dump truck to clear out all the remains.
According to Marr Christian, a supervising code officer with Riverside County Code Enforcement, the cleanup followed an established protocol that began with fielding phone calls from the public and a nearby mobile home park. Many were concerned over suspicious activity and visible cooking or warming fires.
“The land the homeless were on was private property,” said Christian. “The homeless were given constructive notice over a several month period and resources were extended to them, should they choose to participate.”
On the day the clean up began, no homeless were on the property.
In addition to the sheriff’s office and code enforcement, CA State Fish and Wildlife and San Jacinto Regional Conservation District were called onsite due to a water course that transects the property. It was also determined that the area may contain sensitive vegetation and habitat, particularly during the current nesting season.
The number one concern of officials was the safety of the cleanup crew, as drug use in these camps is common and can lead to workers being poked by used needles. However, no workers were injured during the clean up, which was ultimately organized and paid for by the property owner.