DES MOINES, Iowa – The City of Des Moines said it gave about 50 homeless people living in camps along the river fair warning. On Monday, city crews went from site to site making sure the campers had packed up and moved.
“Today they’re going to come down and take everybody’s stuff and throw it in the dump,” said Don Welch.
Welch was kicked out of a camp site under the George Washington Carver Bridge.
The city brought in a garbage truck and end loader to remove the trash and belongings left behind. Crews are targeting about a dozen remote campsites along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers. Officials said most of the campers had already left on their own. Police were on hand to deal with any problems with the few who remained.
“If you don’t leave, they’re going to put you in jail,” warned Welch.
“We’re not about criminalizing homelessness. We don’t want to arrest anybody, but at the same, it’s time to move on,” said Des Moines Community Development Director Phil Delafield.
Some of the homeless campers just moved downstream to a spot away from the Raccoon River only to learn that they would have to move for a second time.
“We’re going to go on ahead and move out and then we won’t have to worry about it and then we’ll have all of our stuff,” says Susan Withee.
Others checked into homeless shelters.
Central Iowa Shelter and Services said it won’t turn away anyone looking for a place to stay, but the shelter is out of beds. More than 50 people slept in chairs in the shelter’s overflow area overnight.
Officials said the clean-up of the homeless camps will last the rest of this week and into next.
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