RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — After rising concerns and complaints, crews have taken efforts to clean up and clear an area that has grown with people who are homeless.
In a statement, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said they began the process earlier in March near Capital Boulevard and I-540 after those concerns had been brought up to NCDOT and law enforcement in recent years.
Assistant Director of Communications, Aaron Moody, said those concerns were in response to illegal activity, trash accumulation, thefts and panhandling — specifically around nearby businesses.
Moody said they have worked with both Raleigh Police and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.
During a site visit in December, Moody said health and safety risks had worsened in the area and had decided it was time to take action.
“The site was full of typical trash but also biohazardous materials with countless used drug devices, needles, waste, etc.,” Moody said in a statement.
In addition, Moody said crews collected more than 400 shopping carts and removed nearly 600 cubic yards of debris.
Since the process began the week of March 6, Moody said cleanup operations have cost about $90,000.
Alan Cantera, who’s a manager at the nearby business ‘Once Upon A Child’ said they and other business often had shopping carts taken.
“Those things do cost a lot of money, but there’s so much you can do because our customers leave them outside and we try to do our best, but the homeless get them first before we do,” he said.
Cantera said while their main concern was safety for their customers, he also mentioned concerns for the people who are having to relocate.
“They were moved, but who can say they won’t come back within some months or they’ll set up somewhere else? Even then, I think the priority is to not just get rid of it but to see if they can get some help after all,” Cantera said.
While in the area, Tommy and Jackson, who are both homeless, stood near the site they once called home.
“They put up ‘no trespassing’ signs before they ended up kicking us out and told us how long we had… just telling us you have to pack up your things and get out of here,” Tommy said.
Tommy said some people have lived in the area for 3-5 years.
“It’s stuff that we accumulated, clothes, stuff we eat with, food—everything you have in your house we need, too.” Tommy said. “They don’t really see what we’re going through. As long as they don’t see it, it’s not there.”
The two said part of the concern is not just being homeless, but also not knowing where to go next.
Tommy said many people have already relocated.
“Another place in the woods until the next time,” he added. “I don’t know what they’re going to do to solve the problem, but they keep squeezing us, we’re going to be on their front lawns.”
Jackson, who is 24 years old, said many people think the solution is simple and starts with getting a job.
Jackson said the issue is more complex than that.
“I have to get an ID, I’m not even from the U.S. originally, and I have to get clothes, keep them clean, I can’t hold a sign for food money at all or my manager will probably fire me,” he explained.
Even with a job, Jackson said he doesn’t have transportation to get there.
“I hope they come up with some idea because I’m sick of moving,” said Tommy.
The two expressed frustration not just with the move, but Tommy and Jackson said they and others have not been approached by outreach groups or services.
While some choose to remain homeless, the two said others have found themselves in the situation because of higher costs of everything.
“At the end of the day, we’re humans just like they are,” Tommy said. “I don’t know everyone’s story and how they got here, but we’re still human.”
CBS 17 News reached out to NCDOT, who said their involvement to clear the debris from the site only happened after people had been offered resources and vacated the area.
Moody said partner agencies offered resources to people to find a safer place, which he said is standard practice in similar situations statewide.
“In many cases, help was repeatedly offered over a period of 2-3 weeks and not accepted,” Moody said.
NCDOT staff said the cleanup process is ongoing and will continue to evaluate the location to determine if any additional work is needed.