RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Clearing out an illegal homeless camp won't happen overnight. It takes time, getting some of the people to move on and money hauling away mounds of trash.
The property owners want to remove every trace of the makeshift homeless encampment and they will. But they say no matter what they do, or how they do it, someone will be upset.
The homeless squatters may not have any legal rights to stay on private property, but it's easy to see why they want to. Eighteen acres of woods near Chamberlayne and Azalea avenues offer easy access to food, the bus line, and unfortunately nearby homeowners' belongings.
"My cooler is missing, it's back there. Tools are missing. They're back there," said Amy Anderson.
The campers have been living behind her home for years undetected.
"They panhandle on the street. Can't they use the money that they get and get a hotel instead of living out in the woods? I just wish their families would be able to do something about this," she said.
The real estate manager tells me one industrious camper even found a way to tap into a county water line. They had many of the amenities of home. But now "no trespassing signs" that were torn down are replaced, promising arrest.
Real estate manager Kristy Cosley estimates $250 for every dumpster hauled out of there. Considering the mounds of trash, there will be many trips.
"We're not able to cut down trees, there's wetland property in there that we can't disturb. It's taking a long time to get in and out with the smallest vehicle that we can to get the majority of the stuff out," said Cosley.
Something else that must go -- a makeshift bridge campers built to maneuver through wet, mucky ground that seemingly goes on forever.
Cosley tells me the expensive pallets were stolen from Food Lion and the store wants them back.
"The worst thing you want is for people to be thrown in jail," Cosley said. "We have said get out of here now. We have said you've got this amount of time to get rid of your belongings."
The police are offering social services.
"Find a place. It's called find a place. The police already know where I'm at. They're not worried about me. The crack heads that are back there right now, that's what they're worried about," one homeless man said.
The daughter of one of the homeless men sent me an e-mail talking about hard it is on families, who want to help but can't. Some of the homeless have untreated illnesses, physical and mental problems. She says she wishes people cared more and ends by saying: "I have the heart, just not the income."
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