Whether you come across a homeless encampment in a public park or national forest, or on school property or private land, the discovery is never a pleasant one. Your first reaction may be sadness. With a GNI (gross national income) per capita of $55,351, according to USA Today, the United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and most of us live fairly comfortably. It is a perfectly natural reaction to feel sad when you come face to face with the reality that our country, despite its wealth, still houses over 500,000 homeless people. 

Homelessness in Orange County

According to a Data USA report, in 2017, the state of California “had the highest estimated number of chronically homeless individuals in the nation.” The numbers differ for various counties, with some on the rise and some in decline. 

For instance, a survey performed by Orange County between 2009 and 2011 showed an overall 25% decline in homelessness in this county. Still, there are over 8,300 homeless people in Orange County. 

Where are these people living? Some homeless people live on city streets or are permanently transient, putting up in motels or shelters overnight. Others choose to live with family and friends, staying in one place for as long as their hosts will allow. However, many of these individuals make their homes in semi-permanent outbuildings, makeshift shelters and secluded camps commonly known as “homeless encampments” or “tent cities.” 

What Is a Homeless Encampment?

According to CalRecycle (California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery,) “homeless encampments are locations where one or more homeless people live in an unsheltered area.”

Traditionally, you may think of such encampments as a grouping of tents, as the name “tent city” suggests. However, homeless encampments come in a wide variety of shapes and forms. People may live in abandoned vehicles, disused barns and sheds or houses which have not been occupied for years. Other times, homeless encampments are comprised of traditional tents, hand constructed lean-tos or cabins, or even treehouses. Essentially, a homeless person looking for a place to set up camp, rather than seeking traditional shelter, will use whatever resources he comes across. 

Encampments are often created in quiet, secluded areas where people feel safely sheltered from the weather and somewhat distanced from the general population. However, these camps may also be set up near main traffic thoroughfares for easy access to transportation, food and other resources.

How Can You Tell If the Camp Is Abandoned?

When you come across an encampment, whether on public land or your own property, you may not initially know if the place is inhabited or abandoned. Even if the camp seems large, organized or well constructed, it could still be empty. As ideal as any location may be at first, if the place is discovered or otherwise compromised, as quickly as these encampments go up, their inhabitants can easily disappear overnight. 

When a camp goes down, the people leave, but a lot of rubble, trash or discarded belongings are usually left behind. The remains of a recently vacated camp or shelter are what you will more than likely discover, if you come across a homeless encampment. But it’s also possible to stumble across a fully occupied homeless encampment. So, how can you be sure that the encampment you have discovered is abandoned?

To determine whether the encampment is vacant or occupied, the easiest thing to do is call in the authorities. However, if you are monitoring your own property, you can watch from a distance for signs of life. This may be movement of objects and structures from one day to another. It may be determined by sighting a person or noticing that a dog has been fed and watered. You may also notice smoke from a campfire or smell food being cooked on a stove. 

If you are not accompanied by law enforcement or city officials, always keep a respectful distance away from the camp until you are sure that it has been abandoned. An occupied camp on public property or a state right-of-way should be reported to state authorities. You can do this via the Caltrans website. An occupied homeless encampment on private property that is not your own should be reported to the landowner. 

Hazards of an Abandoned Encampment

Once you’ve established that an encampment is unoccupied, or the authorities have dissolved the encampment, you may feel the impulse to immediately begin cleaning up. However, you should be wary of making any attempt to do so without professional assistance. An empty, vacated camp may actually pose more health and safety hazards than a camp that is still inhabited. 

For this reason, you should never try to clean up an abandoned camp by yourself. Instead, enlisting the aid of a professional cleaning company in Cypress, California will save you from encountering innumerable risks to your health and safety. 

Potential Hazards & Concerns:

  • Cuts from sharp objects, broken glass, etc.
  • Injury from tripping on or falling onto rubble
  • Risk of fire due to abandoned structures
  • Risk of fire from unattended stoves or campfires
  • Electrical fire from exposure to wiring, circuits, transformers, etc.
  • Wildlife infestations due to discarded food and trash
  • Feral dog or cat colonies from abandoned pets
  • Infection risk, such as Hepatitis A, from hypodermic needles
  • Biohazard infections from trash, animal carcasses, feces, urine, blood, etc.
  • Chemical burns, inhaling of chemicals, chemical damage to property

Calling in the Experts

When you’re ready to get a homeless encampment cleaned up, Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company is at your service. Serving many parts of California, Nevada and Arizona, we can have someone assess and clean up a Cypress California property in no time, and at an average of 50% less cost to you than services from our competitors. 

Our team of professionals are fully trained to handle every step of homeless encampment cleanup. With job-specific, CDC approved safety gear and all the mandated cleaning chemicals, Eco Bear will perform cleanup, sanitization and restoration of the site in a safe, effective manner.