STOCKTON, Calif. — About 50 people experiencing homelessness are protesting being removed from their encampment in Stockton underneath Interstate 5 near Weber Avenue and Washington Street.
They say they got the notice to leave on Friday, which came without any explanation or any sort of penal code violations.
It was only until advocates and other people experiencing homelessness started asking questions that they found out. It was apparently to make room for a Thanksgiving run to feed the hungry on Thursday, one of the Stockton Emergency Food Bank’s biggest fundraisers of the year.
However, people staying in the area say they’re being forced to leave without anywhere to go, and they haven’t received any resources or navigation tools to help them find another place.
“I feel depressed. I feel lost. I feel like my government has let us down. We’re people tool; we have human rights," Christine Worrell, a woman at the camp site, said.
Christine and her husband Nick Worrell, who have been sleeping out of their camper here with their three dogs, say they haven’t been able to find a shelter, not at capacity, accepting both pets and partners.
“It’s heartbreaking honestly to see a community of such supportive individuals holding each other accountable, keeping each other clean, and to see them evicted because of a fun run that, ultimately has good intentions, but it’s being executed in such a way that it impacts the people that it’s trying to help. It’s devastating," Zak Baker, a homeless advocate, said.
Stockton's Emergency Food Bank said they weren't made aware that this cleanup was even scheduled to happen.
ABC10 reached out to the City of Stockton for comment but they said this is a Caltrans issue.
In a statement to ABC10, Caltrans said the area had safety issues and also posed a water quality threat to the Delta due to trash and debris. Caltrans also said there's been coordination efforts with the City of Stockton since August to address the encampment and noted that outreach was done earlier in November along with a 72-hour advance notice of the camp removal.
A full statement from Caltrans is available below.
Caltrans identified an encampment as a safety hazard due to the RVs and trailers parked near the structure that poses a fire risk, the excessive amount of trash and debris at the site and the threat to water quality of the Delta. Caltrans’ responsibility is to ensure the safety of the traveling public and to protect and maintain California’s highway infrastructure. The department and the City of Stockton have been coordinating since August on how to best handle this encampment and safely relocate people experiencing homelessness.
In collaboration with the city, Caltrans paused the cleanup to give the city time to reach out to the people living there to offer service. The county visited the site and provided outreach in early November and weekly outreach and Caltrans posted a notice at the site 72-hours in advance of the cleanup to allow those at the encampment time to gather their belongings and take advantage of the city services. The department is collecting personal belongings left behind and bringing them to a nearby maintenance yard for later retrieval. Safety remains the department’s number one priority, and the partnership with the city is essential in helping people experiencing homeless receive the assistance and resources they need for safer living conditions.