SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - After outreach and warning notices, crews moved in to clean out nearly everything in two visually overloaded homeless camps Monday along Highway 101 in Santa Barbara.
The sites were on both sides of the Castillo-Haley Street onramp.
Over the last many weeks, the camps have increased in size with a variety of possessions, tents, recyclables, bicycles and numerous bags of unknown contents.
City officials worked with homeless advocates to offer those who could be found living in the camps assistance with relocating if they chose.
Some of the people living there assisted in throwing out things they did not need, but they did not lose their tents.
The project involved Caltrans, Santa Barbara Public Works, the California Highway Patrol, Santa Barbara Police and various agencies working with the homeless.
This area has been the focus of numerous complaints to City Hall and other agencies, according to crews on site.
It took several hours to do the work, and during that time the freeway onramp was closed to traffic.
Santa Barbara City Fire officials have been concerned about new fires in camps like these. Recently they have had many in the freeway corridor where homeless camps have been established from Santa Barbara to Goleta.
One destroyed a vehicle. Others have threatened structures.
Sunday night, two Santa Barbara City Fire engines were dispatched to the Castillo Street site on a report of a fire. They did not find one but learned a propane stove was in use in the vegetation area.
Occupants of a newly established third campsite nearby on the eastern end of Castillo moved out in the last several days.
Last week, several dwellers in the trees at Pershing Park were also notified of a cleanup there after months of occupying a location by the park entrance.
Late last year, those camping on the beach between Stearns Wharf and the cemetery were also given the same notice and eventually had a move out day with police and park officials working to clean up what was left behind.
One of those leaving the area said she had enjoyed her beach area spot for six months.
Later this week, another cleanup will take place in the railroad corridor where more homeless camps have been set up.
The city is contracting with South Coast Janitorial and Big Green to do the cleanups with supervision by police during the work.
Many outreach groups are assisting the homeless with food, clothing, showers, medical checks and living options on a regular basis.