Crews begin cleaning up 2 large homeless encampments along Atlanta highways

Crews began work to remove several homeless camps along Atlanta highways Thursday.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Channel 2′s Steve Gehlbach was on the Buford Spring Connector near Sidney Marcus, where crews with bulldozers and dump trucks cleared out trash, shopping carts, tents and debris.

Gehlbach learned that a big camp behind the Buckhead post office was also cleared.

The cleanup effort comes after a fire broke out at a homeless camp under a bridge Wednesday night. The fire started around 8:30 p.m. at the intersection of Piedmont Road and Garson Drive and shut down roads for hours. Georgia Department of Transportation crews inspected the structural integrity of the bridge after firefighters were able to put out the flames and cars were cleared to drive over it again.

Last night’s fire was the third fire under a bridge in the same area since August. The fires have left several bridges damaged and traffic snarled.

A bridge on Cheshire Bridge Road has still not reopened after a fire several months ago that started at a homeless camp.


But city officials said that the cleanup effort was not sparked by the fire and that it had been planned for weeks.

The Atlanta Police Department said it worked with the Department of Public Works on the cleanup effort. The APD Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) team visited the camp on Wednesday to warn its homeless residents that they would have to move on.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Yesterday, members of the Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative (PAD) also offered substance use and mental health supportive services to residents of the camps.

Atlanta police said that especially after the latest fire, the homeless camps are an issue of public health and safety. Some people who live in apartments nearby said they think up to 30 people may live at one of the camps.

“The conditions are unsanitary, especially in the colder months. We have fires being burned. It kind of encompasses a lot of issues we run into,” one officer said.