ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta is working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to clear people out of a homeless encampment known as "The Hill" near I-85 and Cheshire Bridge. As many as 100 people had been living there, but there have been some safety concerns with a big fire breaking out there just two weeks ago.
Bulldozers and bobcats trekked up "The Hill" on Monday – clearing what's left of the encampment that's been home to hundreds of people in Atlanta for the last 10 years.
"There's a lot of folks out here feeling really alone, scared, abandoned, and lost. I am hoping to reconnect with them, that's why I am out here," Elizabeth Foundation Advocate Tracy Thompson said.
Thompson has been back every day since a fire destroyed the camp at the top of "The Hill" at the intersection of Cheshire Bridge, Lenox Road, and the Buford Connector.
"'I'm looking to reconnect with the people who didn't get placed because they're wandering around and they're looking, and 'Where did their stuff go? Where did their buddies go?'" Thompson asked.
Before the heavy machinery came up to the camp, video shows piles of burned-out tents and burnt clothing from the fire.
Dozens of nonprofits have stepped in to help those folks find somewhere to go.
"They want to make it safe, it's been very cold. We came out with all our partners to make sure the citizens here whether you live here or not, we want to make sure you're safe," another advocate Tammy Patterson said.
About 25 people living there were able to get into a city-funded program that gives them shelter at a local motel and access to wrap-around services.
However, Thompson said many more are left now with nowhere to go.
"My phone is blowing up and a lot more are out here - and they won't have that opportunity and the motel is full," she said.
In a statement, GDOT said urban camping is illegal and creates a public safety hazard. The agency said this type of clean-up can cost up to $100,000 in taxpayer money, and they just started cleaning up the biohazards at this site.
"This has been a community and though it's gotten a lot of negative attention, there's a lot of people here who rely on each other to share resources," Thompson said.
GDOT doesn't have a timeframe for when the clean-up will be finished, but once it is, the agency said it's on the city and the police to keep the area clear.