People who don’t live in Pasadena would be surprised to learn that there are problems with homeless encampments in this gorgeous part of the state. Homeless encampments have been found in areas like the Eaton Canyon Reservoir, prompting cleanup by local biohazardous waste cleaning contractors. The number of homeless has increased drastically all over the state, and the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better. Homelessness is a very serious situation that affects thousands of people, but homeless encampments are not the answer. They pose risks not only to encampment residents but also to people who live in the surrounding communities.

What is a homeless encampment?

A homeless encampment is a temporary outdoor shelter set up by two or more homeless people on property that doesn’t belong to them. You may have seen them as you’ve driven by or walked by certain areas. They’re usually identified by the makeshift boxes, tarps, tents, blankets, and structures that have been strung together to create some sort of shelter.

Homeless encampments can spring up just about anywhere. They’re located at beaches, alongside highways, beneath highway underpasses, tucked away into woods, and just about anywhere that the people can find space.

Why are homeless encampments not a good idea?

Homeless encampments are not a good solution for many reasons.

They’re extremely unsanitary. Homeless encampments are filled with biohazardous and infectious waste that contain airborne and bloodborne pathogens that cause some of the worst diseases in humans. The types of waste found at homeless encampments include human waste, animal waste, bodily fluids, rotting food, and drug paraphernalia.

It’s completely impossible for people to remain clean while living in homeless encampments. There is nowhere for them to wash their hands, take baths, or clean their clothes. Many of them have pets, and those pets aren’t able to be washed or cleaned either. Many residents freely share items like cups, plates, or clothes, passing contaminants back and forth between themselves in the process. There is no set place for them to use bathroom facilities, forcing many of them to relieve themselves in containers, bags, or whatever else they have on hand. All of this activity creates a perfect storm for the spread of infectious diseases.

If you have a situation where pathogens have been spreading through the camp and causing outbreaks, you also run the risk of those pathogens releasing into the broader community as well. This creates a nightmare scenario for health officials.

The Los Angeles Times recently did an article about the outbreak of hepatitis A that is so focused heavily within California’s homeless communities. The outbreak has been directly correlated to the amount of waste that’s located in the communities, highlighting once again the fact that homeless encampments could end up being Ground Zero for disease outbreaks. When cleaning is done, it must be done in such a way as to prevent pathogen spread affecting anyone who can want to enjoy the space once cleaning has been completed.

Who has to pay for encampment cleanup?

You have to look very carefully at where the encampment is located in order to determine who has to pay for cleanup of the space once it’s emptied out. Homeless encampment cleanup is the responsibility of whoever owns the land that the encampment was located on. This can get a little tricky in areas where the encampment straddles both private and public property. If you’re confused about who’s responsible for the encampment cleanup in your specific situation, give us a call so that we can try and help you figure it out.

How long does homeless encampment cleaning take?

Some homeless encampments are relatively small, consisting of just a handful of people. Clearly those won’t take a long time to clean out. Some homeless encampments are large and sprawling, covering large swaths of land and holding dozens of people. In those cases, cleaning up the encampment will obviously take much longer. Once the encampment team has had a chance to assess the site, it will have a better idea of how long everything will take to clean up. Check with your insurance company to see if homeless encampments cleaning is covered under either a residential policy or commercial policy.

What will happen when the site is cleaned out?

The cleanup team will go in and start to break down any of the remaining structures. This can include everything from tents that were left behind to giant moving boxes that were used for coverage. Once those materials have been cleared away, the next step will be to remove biohazardous waste from the site. The waste will be packaged up and placed into bins and containers that have been built to hold and seal the waste so that it doesn’t spill or leak out of the box. If it did, contamination or recontamination could happen.

Once the waste has been removed, the camp will be washed down with cleaners, disinfectants, and deodorizers that have been given the okay by the OSHA and the EPA for use in sanitizing and cleaning sites where biohazardous waste exists.

Once the site has been completely wiped down and cleaned, the cleaning teams will transport the waste to a waste treatment facility where it will be destroyed.

Homelessness is a serious problem, and cities and the state are always trying to figure out new ways to provide help to the unhoused. Homeless encampments can cause irreparable harm to communities by creating health risks, and they can break down the structure of communities by making it difficult to conduct business or live comfortably. Give us a call if you have any questions about the homeless encampments in question.