DPW clears homeless camps from city underpasses

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Department of Public Works is in the middle of a two-day cleanup of a highway underpass, but a North Baton Rouge woman is upset about it. She tells 9News that what appears to be trash is actually personal belongings.

Cardboard boxes, shopping carts and plastic pieces likely looks like piles of junk to any person who's just driving through the underpass at Airline Highway and Plank Road. But Dr. Joyce Turner-Keller says those piles could contain some people's most valuable possessions.

"My goodness. That may have been some homeless veteran who may be living there who may have a job, left all his or her papers under that bridge expecting to come back and find that," said Turner-Keller.

DPW director David Guillory says homeless camps under the city's bridges and highways are common and they're usually left alone.

"Periodically, homeless camps will start, they'll grow," said Guillory. "And at some point, usually when there's a large amount of people living in one area, we'll start to get calls about crime and incidents."

Guillory says once the camps become a problem, DPW crews have to come in and clear the areas out.

"It's either in one of our right of ways or a state right of way next to an interstate. So it is normally considered litter. And the police deal with it as litter, so we deal with it as litter as well and it does get thrown away," said Guillory.

While Turner-Keller says she understands these cleanups are done with the public's safety in mind, she says everyone in the city needs have sympathy for these men and women and consider ways to help homeless people get back on their feet.

"If I have a mortgage or even rent, I'm 30-days away from being a homeless person. And everybody should think like that. It may be somebody else today, but tomorrow that could be you," said Turner-Keller.

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