Nestled in beautiful northern Orange County, California, Fullerton is a city with a total population of 135,161 as of the 2010 census. Fullerton has deep historic roots as a center of agriculture, most notably in the production of Valencia oranges and other citrus crops, as well as industrial manufacturing. Now, Fullerton is a hub of modernization and community. With coffee shops and parks intermixed with beautiful residential homes, Fullerton is what one may call an “urban suburban area.” Fullerton’s downtown area, just south of Commonwealth Avenue, has seen increased mixed use as a busy entertainment district. Fullerton is also home to California State University, Fullerton, and enrolls around 40,400 students. Fullerton’s population is expected to continue to grow in the upcoming years, as more and more people migrate to this diverse area for work and school. But, with increased growth also comes an increase in the homeless population that migrate to the area. And, in 2011, a major scandal rocked the community of Fullerton and put the reality of its homeless population front and center.

Death of Kelly Thomas

Kelly Thomas was a homeless man diagnosed with schizophrenia living on the streets of Fullerton in 2011. While investigating a report of car vandalization, six police officers came upon Thomas and attempted to arrest him, though there was no direct evidence that he had committed any crime. The officers used a taser to subdue Thomas and then beat him into compliance. Thomas succumbed to his wounds five days later, which included severe injuries to his head, face and neck. 

The incident was thrown into the national spotlight and protests raged in Fullerton for the next few months, decrying the police brutality used on Thomas. Many people wondered that, had Thomas been living in a shelter or receiving adequate treatment for his mental illness, if the outcome would have been different. Either way, the crime propelled Fullerton’s governing board to write legislation in 2019 on approving a homeless shelter in the city. The proposed facility would have 150 beds and recuperative facilities for those needing treatment. As more and more homeless persons begin to move into shelters such as these, there will be an increased need for homeless encampment cleanup in Fullerton, CA. 

Homeless Encampment Cleanup

Homeless encampments, often referred to as “tent cities” or “transient camps,” are commonly found in major cities. But, they can be found in suburban areas as well, where housing is becoming more and more expensive. Homeless encampments are typically made of makeshift or temporary housing structures spread over a wide area, but a homeless camp can also take form in groups living under a highway overpass or on sidewalks. Homeless camps are characterized as more than one homeless person living together, and can vary in size and condition. Sometimes, those who are homeless find these common environments safer than being alone on the streets. But, many also see these types of camps stunting of business and residential growth in neighborhoods, and there have been many calls nationwide to crack down on these communities. 

A Growing Concern

There is mounting evidence that, while homeless women, men and children may benefit from exposure to others facing similar issues, there are more environmental and health concerns by staying in homeless camps for a long period of time. Health is the primary motivation for closing homeless encampments, as they can be hotbeds of bacteria and biohazard materials. Overall, when local law enforcement shuts down a homeless camp, they should also provide a safe alternative for the occupants to go. There should also be a safe, lawful and comprehensive effort to restore the environment to its prior state. Unfortunately, sometimes the cleanup effort is either too in-depth or pricey for city or council agencies to take on, and in turn gets tasked upon residents or homeowners. Because of this, it is necessary that a professional homeless encampment cleanup company with a track record of experience, adequate training and a comprehensive plan takes on the process instead of an individual. 

Homeless Encampment Cleanup

Because homeless camps are exposed to many different things, there are several biohazard concerns to consider during a homeless encampment cleanup. Even though there has been more effort to install restrooms at homeless camps, human waste in the form of feces and urine is still common. In addition, animal waste and carcasses are both likely in an outdoor camps, as many homeless persons have pets as sources of comfort. There may also be drugs and drug paraphernalia with bio-fluids or blood present, which must be disposed of immediately and in a safe way. In addition, litter can become a huge environmental concern if it spreads too far. A professional homeless encampment cleanup company will begin by cleaning these physical items, and then performing sanitization and restoration. When sanitizing, a homeless encampment cleanup company will use medical grade sanitization products that most members of the public don’t have access to. They will also use the proper tools, like goggles, gloves and masks or respirators, to ensure that the proper safety measures are followed. 

As a last step, the homeless encampment cleanup company will restore the area as close to its original condition as possible, which is the main objective in the entire cleanup process. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the area will not return to a homeless encampment in the future, but a safe, thorough restoration will make the area usable for humans and animals alike for years to come and incentivize the area to remain that way. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with homelessness, there are several resources in Fullerton, CA you can seek for help.