Monday morning, employees with the Oregon Department of Transportation conducted a sweep of a homeless camp in Salem.
At 8:30 a.m., ODOT officials started to tell campers to leave the property under and along the Center Street pedestrian bridge, just steps from a popular trail for runners. About 50 people were vacated.
Many of the campers started to take down their tents before ODOT brought in their large machines to clean up the area.
Officials called the camp a “health and safety hazard” – but some of the campers said they simply have nowhere else to go.
“This is their home," Javier a resident of the camp said. "This is what they call home. Everything that they have is in those tents. Like I said, a lot of these people will probably end up in jail tonight.”
ODOT says similar cleanups have been on the rise and costing Oregonians totaling more than $3 million in taxpayer funds over the past five years.
Campers were given two weeks notice of the sweep. ODOT, police and social workers made visits during the first week of March and posted signs, warning about the shutdown happening Monday morning.
Daniel Smith told FOX 12 he is in support of the sweep saying that he has stopped using the burdge over the past few months to avoid the campsite.
“I’m glad that they’re finally moving them out," Smith said. "They’ve been here for too long, making a mess.”
FOX 12 was told the camp area is managed by ODOT – and the camp rapidly grew prior to the start of the month.
ODOT said they are working with social services to find other places for the campers to go. Cops and cleanup crews even offered hot coffee to those now sleeping elsewhere.
After the camp is cleared, crews are set to come in and clear the remaining garbage and debris over the next two weeks.
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