ATLANTA -- In Metro Atlanta, on any given day, there are more than 2,400people - men, women and children - without a home.
When the city settles down to sleep, so do they. For many, the safest shelter they can find is beneath one of Atlanta's bridges.
For the past six months, Jimmy has called Metropolitan Parkway home. He has set up his "condominium" directly beneath Interstate 20, complete with an old mattress, broom, city trash can and several bags of personal items.
"You get up every morning, be gone by 8 o'clock," hesaid, propping his mattress against the bridge pillar for storage. "If you keep your place clean, the city won't bother you."
Indeed, Jimmy is in good company. If you look closely under any Atlanta bridge, you're likely to spota few pitched tents, blankets and clothes hanging up to dry, shoes, backpacks, ametal bowl collecting dripping water - all signs of people who will soon return "home" for the night.
And some bridges show traces of a campfire, similar to the one investigators believe sparked afire beneath the MLK Street bridgeTuesday afternoon. The bridge was shut down most of Wednesday as crews checked for structural damage. Officials believe there are at least10 "regulars" who live beneath the bridge, and more than two dozen who sometimes gather there.
Homelessness in Atlanta is nothing new; the city has been working for years to get people off the streets, and even has a task force dedicated to ending homelessness.
But because each situation is different, it's not as easy as "cracking down" on bridge dwellers, says city spokesman Reese McCranie. Some battle substance abuse or mental illness. Many have been homeless for years, others only a few months.
Recently, Mayor Kasim Reed announced his commitment to ending chronic homelessness among Atlanta's veterans, promising to house 100 vets in 100 days.
McCraniesaid the best way to tackle such a large problem is to focus on different subsets within the homeless population.
"It's not an easy solution. There are many layers,"McCranie said. "Wego through different segmentations, whether they're veterans, whether chronically homeless, episodically homeless."
The city is still investigating Tuesday's blaze to see what should be done to prevent such fires in the future.