People in the San Fernando Valley are very aware of the homeless encampment situation in the area. Homeless encampments have been a big issue here since the mid-2000s. Originally, homeless encampments tended to be tucked away in less populated areas like underneath highway overpasses and parks. As the homeless problem has grown over the years, the encampments have become a lot more visible, spreading out into the community. By the time 2018 rolled around, there were over 7700 unsheltered homeless in the area. While the city and state work to try and resolve the overall homeless issues, the immediate issue of homeless encampments remains. 

What is a homeless encampment?

A homeless encampment is a site where two or more people set up temporary housing on property that doesn’t belong to them. The encampment is usually made up of makeshift tents, boxes, and any other items that can give someone some sort of shelter. While encampments used to be a lot less visible, mostly set up in areas like underneath highway overrpasses or tucked away inside of parks, they’ve become a lot more visible over the years. You can basically see them anywhere, from the middle of busy retail districts to spaces that are close to residential neighborhoods.

How difficult are homeless encampments to clean?

How difficult a homeless encampment will be to clean will depend on several factors. The first factor will be how big the encampment is. Some encampments only consist of a few people and occupy very small areas, so it stands to reason that those will be easier to clean. Some homeless encampments are absolutely enormous, sprawling entities, taking on the appearance of shanty towns. Those types of sites will take a very long time to clean. 

How long it takes to clean a homeless encampment also depends on the type of waste that you’ll find there. Some homeless encampments are free-for-alls where residents pay very little attention to issues like the disposal of waste or keeping the area as tidy as humanly possible. Other types of homeless encampments are self-contained communities that have very strict rules in place regarding the disposal of waste. These are usually encampments where people are trying their best to coexist within and cause as little as disruption to the larger community. These homeless encampments will take a lot less time to clean, even if they’re large. 

Who’s responsible for cleaning up homeless encampments?

This question can sometimes be a little tricky, but the responsibility of cleanup ultimately falls to whoever owns the property that the encampment is located on. If the encampment is located on public property, the state, local, or city government will be responsible for the cleanup. If the encampment is located on private property, whoever owns that property will be responsible for cleanup.

Why are homeless encampments so difficult to clean?

Homeless encampments are so difficult to clean because of the types of waste that’s found there. For the most part, people in homeless encampments don’t have anywhere to wash their hands, clean their clothes, or take baths or showers. This inability to practice general hygiene results in a situation where it’s very easy to spread diseases.

There is so much biohazardous and infectious waste located at homeless encampments. Biohazardous and infectious waste is waste that contains pathogens. Pathogens are those microorganisms that give people diseases. The waste found in homeless encampments are filled with pathogens, increasing the likelihood of people becoming sick. Some of the waste that you’ll find on site includes human waste, animal waste, drug paraphernalia, bodily fluids, garbage, and rotting food.

Because people at homeless encampments don’t have access to bathrooms, they usually use whatever they have at hand to relieve themselves. Because they’re unable to wash their hands afterwards, any surfaces they touch could become contaminated with any pathogens that they have in their systems. People in homeless encampments frequently share everything from cooking utensils to blankets. If these items are infected, the people sharing them will become infected.

This is one of the main reasons that you frequently hear about outbreaks of diseases like hepatitis A and influenza at homeless encampments. It’s extremely difficult if not impossible to maintain hygienic practices at these types of sites. Once you have an outbreak, it can spread from within that community to the community at large.

So how do cleaners protect themselves from becoming infected?

Experienced homeless encampment cleaners are up to date on all of the tools, equipment, cleaners, and technical know-how that they’ll need to clean up homeless encampments. They use cleaning techniques that are used to remove biohazardous waste. Biohazardous waste cleanup is a very specific type of clean up that’s used in sites like homeless encampments to eliminate pathogens and sanitize the areas where the waste existed so that the areas are safe for use once again.

Cleaners will wear PPE gear that’s specifically tailored to help protect them from coming into contact with contaminants and pathogens. They’ll wear coveralls that completely cover their clothes, helping ward off splashes. They’ll wear goggles, face shields, and respirators to prevent particles and aerosols from entering their noses, mouths, and eyes.

They’ll carefully wrap up all of the biohazardous and infectious waste and place it into special bins and containers so that they prevent the spread of the contaminants from one surface to another. This also prevents anyone handling the waste from becoming contaminated. 

Once the waste has been collected, the teams will transport it to a medical waste facility where it will be incinerated and destroyed.

As you can see, there are strict yet necessary procedures in place for homeless encampment cleanup. By letting experienced professionals handle the cleanup, you can feel comfortable knowing that the site will be safe for use once again. Give us a call if you have any questions regarding a homeless encampment clean up in your area. We can answer any questions that you have.