HOMELESSNESS is a “crisis” in America, including at a tent city in California where hundreds of people live among rats and rubbish in a mile-long encampment.
One resident, Kat MacKay, says she’s fed up with the stink of decaying food and outbreaks of syphilis and vomiting infections in the Santa Rosa hellhole.
There’s been a growing call across the US to help such stricken people get into housing, rather than risking their lives, camping in streets and other public spaces.
California has the country’s largest homeless population – and it’s continuing to expand, according to Los Angeles Times.
Latest stats show that there were about 130,000 people “on the streets on any given night statewide” in 2018, it reports.
The paper adds that as of August 2019, there were nearly 59,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County in 2019, and a further 9,784 in San Francisco – 30 per cent more than two years ago.
In Sonoma County, a mile-long homeless encampment along Santa Rosa’s Joe Rodota Trail is a source of anger for the local community.
With people setting up tents along the bike and pedestrian path, residents believe homeless people have “taken over the area”.
Angry locals have for months been targeting officials, demanding to have them removed from the beauty spot.
Lisa Landrus, a member of Citizens for Action Now, told CBS in San Franciso: “When I see what this has done to the use and enjoyment of this area, I think how far does everyone else have to be pushed with the leniency involved with treating this group.”
Group founder Craig Murphy said he was shocked to see a YouTube video of a man injecting himself in front of people cycling past.
Kay MacKay, 19, told San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s awful here. It smells bad, it’s not sanitary, it’s not safe.
“I wish the county would give us a real spot to be in.”
She’s among hundreds living along the encampment, and told the paper about outbreaks of syphilis and gastro bugs, while residents have to also put up with vermin infestations.
The paper points out that Kay and fellow residents can’t be forced to move on as the area can’t meet the demand for low-cost or supportive housing.
And a recent court injunction would make it illegal to do so.
Meanwhile, cops have attended 250 calls, following complaints about “disturbances” at the site over the past few months.
The Chronicle says that most calls come from neighbours who fear for their safety using the trail, while nearby businesses have alleged a rise in shoplifting.
The under-pressure county Board of Supervisors hopes to expand shelter facilities in the area.
But Kathleen Finigan, from Homeless Action advocacy group, told the Chronicle: “They’ve been sweeping people out of camps for a year and a half, in what I call a ‘revolving door of self-perpetuating misery, and only stopped because of the injunction.”