LINCOLN (CBS13) — Police officers in Lincoln say they couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw it: a two-bedroom apartment inside of Highway 65.
“They climbed up in there and found that obviously it was being used as a living quarter,” said Doug Lee, Police Chief of Lincoln Police Department.
Last Thursday, officers from Lincoln Police Department were out with a public works crew cleaning up trash near the freeway. They noticed a handmade bridge crossing a small creek and then found an outdoor living space, unlike anything they’d seen before.
“They saw a ramp leading up to a space that’s inside the actual freeway itself,” Lee said.
The space is four feet tall and 40 feet long. It’s supposed to be used as crawl space for engineers to check on the freeway. But this looked more like an apartment.
“There was a wall with an opening, and that was being used as a bedroom,” he explained. “There was a bed and sheets and pillow and everything on it.”
Officers found a bunch of garbage and a propane tank, which is a dangerous fire hazard, especially under moving traffic.
“We’re one little mistake away from having a disastrous fire down in that ravine because it’s very hard for us to get to,” Lee said.
After posting a 72-hour notice for the occupants to vacate, Caltrans started cleaning up Wednesday morning.
Caltrans spokesman Dennis Keaton says it’s uncommon to find this kind of encampment near Highway 65. But over in North Sacramento, it’s an ongoing battle to keep the freeways cleaned up.
Still, Lee told CBS13 he’s not looking to write a ticket or arrest anyone over an encampment.
“Punishing the homeless people is not going to solve the problem,” he said.
Instead, his officers continue to offer resources to homeless people they encounter. And after this cleanup is done, Lee hopes the locked bars on the small entrance will keep anyone else from making this home once again.
“If it’s a chain that they can cut with channel locks, they’ll be back in there again, I’m sure,” Lee said.
Caltrans spent six hours cleaning up, filled their dump truck twice on Wednesday and found a total of 20 yards of garbage in the space. And they’re going back Thursday to finish cleaning up.