ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News crews found several workers sifting through mounds of garbage left over from what appears to be a makeshift homeless community growing in downtown Atlanta.
On Monday, Channel 2’s Erin Coleman saw jail inmates, along with workers from the City of Atlanta and the state Department of Transportation, wearing masks to block the intense smell as they sifted through the massive camp under a bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
“Operationally, it’s very, very difficult to remove the material from under there because of the height of the bridge,” said Dexter White, deputy commissioner for public works for the City of Atlanta.
For the most part, the area had been concealed with tarps and vegetation until a fire broke out in October, he said.
Workers and supervisors said the appearance of the site on Monday was nothing compared to what it looked like a few weeks ago. The city emailed Coleman pictures of homes made out of crates, sheets and loads of debris.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Castleberry Hill resident Allison Parker said.
Parker said they've known about this bridge problem for years.
“We’ve complained about it and we've been to the city over and over again and nothing’s been done until now. That's the part that's more surprising to me than just how many people and how much stuff is under there,” Parker said.
She said the October fire was actually a good thing, in terms of shedding light on the situation and getting something done. City leaders said it took months to start the cleanup because of the sheer size and scope of the project.
“Your challenges are human feces, possibly needles and things of that nature up under there, so we had to have someone from the health department to determine if it was safe for us to even address to those issues,” White said.
Neighbors are happy with the cleanup, but they said the real issue will be securing the property to make sure people can't get under the bridge to prevent the situation from happening again.