Cleaning Homeless Camps Hazardous

Excellent article from the Sacramento Bee reminding us what’s out there as a result of illegal camping.

An excerpt.

Under a freeway overpass, beneath a busy bridge, the ragged tents and shopping carts multiply, communities of human beings glimpsed in the rear-view mirrors of passing motorists.

The job often falls to the California Department of Transportation to clean up these homeless encampments, but highway workers have now drawn their own line in the sand.

Last week, the union representing Caltrans maintenance workers filed a grievance against the department, contending that employees responsible for the massive cleanups are not being adequately protected.

In many instances, workers are not given appropriate protective gear, vaccinations, training or enough compensation for the “dangerous hazmat duties they are performing” on Caltrans property, according to the grievance filed by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Unit 12.

“It’s extremely hazardous, it’s extremely dangerous,” said Steve Crouch, the union’s director of public employees, who filed the grievance.

Crouch, who has spoken with numerous workers in the field, said he hears the same lament: “We didn’t sign on for this.”

One Caltrans worker, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said he has been involved in at least six cleanups so far this year.

“I’ve been exposed to blood, needles, women’s feminine products… five-gallon buckets of human feces,” he told The Bee.

His protective gear? A pair of gloves, he said.

“And that’s really not protective,” he quickly added. “It’s funky, and I’m putting this politely. It’s extremely nasty. You never know what you’re going to step in.”

Caltrans spokeswoman Vanessa J. Wiseman issued a statement Friday, saying: “Safety is a top priority for Caltrans and we will carefully review the grievance.”

According to Caltrans’ in-house publication, Mile Marker magazine, the department has spent about $29.2 million cleaning up encampments since fiscal 2012-13. Caltrans estimated the bill in 2016-17 to be more than $10 million – a 34 percent increase over the previous year – and involved all 12 regional districts.

Retrieved April 30, 2018 from


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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