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SALEM, OR (KPTV) - Salem city leaders are cracking down on Salem’s downtown homeless problem. On Tuesday, crews will be under the Marion St. bridge to clear out a couple dozen campers.

Police say it’s because of violent crime, trash, and even a rat problem.

“It hurt. It hurt,” 18-year-old Damiion Clelland told FOX 12 when he and others found out the city would be moving them out. “We’re a street family, you know. That’s what it is at the end of the day. We’re all the black sheep of some family, but together we’re just regular. We go together.”

Matt Caulder, with Inside Out Ministries in Salem, said he visits the camp several times a week to see what people need.

“It was actually pretty decent, until about six, eight weeks ago and it started really getting out of control,” said Caulder.

According to Salem police, the city is no longer issuing permits to volunteers so they can distribute food to homeless people living under the bridge.

People camping there said that’s the toughest part of the situation.

“They’re trying to take everybody who helps, who sees it from the position that we’re in,” said Clelland.

Clelland and others camping under the bridge said they don’t like the idea of getting kicked out, but they also see where city leaders are coming from.

”People stopped caring and stopped picking up after themselves,” said Natasha Mann, who is homeless. “I don’t blame the city, you know, for kicking everybody out the way they’re doing it because they just trashed the place.”

Though they don’t want to live in those conditions, people living there say they don’t have anywhere else to go.

“Very hard to get anywhere. A lot of them have been just knocked down, and knocked down, and they’ve been cleared out of places like this. You know, cleared, and cleared, and cleared, and start over and start over, and get their stuff stolen,” Caulder told FOX 12. “You get knocked down to where you don’t even want to raise your head to get back up.”

When crews come to clear out on Tuesday, there will be service providers to help people enroll in homeless assistance programs.

Police said they’ll remove the picnic tables, and patrol the area under the bridge often to make sure it doesn’t get out of control again.

In a couple weeks, Salem city council is set to meet about policy priorities for 2019.

They’ll discuss moving forward with the Downtown Homeless Task Force recommendations, including installing more public toilets, and more storage space for homeless people.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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