by Linda Mumma

LODI (CBS13) — Caltrans and the CHP teamed up Thursday to clear homeless encampments from about a mile-long stretch of Highway 99 in Lodi.

The agencies say the illegal camps near the Turner Road overpass are dangerous to not only the people living there but to drivers. Business owners in the area say the cleanup is only a temporary solution.

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Leah Sulter is frustrated with the rise in homeless encampments in Lodi.

“They need to clean them up, but when they clean them up they just push them somewhere else,” Sulter said.

She owns a business downtown and is concerned the problem will eventually end up on her doorstep, contributing to crime and deterring people from shopping at her store.

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“We struggle with panhandling, they sleep in the alleys,” Sulter said. “There’s a lot of little things that could be done by the agencies.”

On Thursday, Caltrans and the CHP teamed up to clean up the encampment along Highway 99.

“This is a unique location because it’s so narrow. We don’t have the ability to get in there with heavy equipment that we would be able to use at other locations,” said Caltrans spokesperson Skip Allum.

Crews spent several hours removing trash and other debris by hand after serving 72-hour eviction notices on Monday.

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“It’s a concern for folks living here. We don’t want them falling into the roadway nor do we want motorists having to worry about people, trash, debris falling in the roadway as well,” Allum said.

Caltrans says representatives from the city and county were there over the three day period, offering help to the homeless.

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“Try to get them some information on where a Salvation Army is or a shelter is,” Allum said.

But not everyone accepts the help, which means many of the homeless will move to another part of town.

“If they want to get clean, there’s not detox centers for them in Lodi,” Sulter said. “There’s minimal recovery centers.”

It’s a cycle Sulter wants to break by calling on the city to step up and help.

“I am really passionate about the homeless,” Sulter said. “The current amount is not cutting it. It’s not doing enough. It’s not having the impact it needs to.”

The city says it’s working with the county to address the needs of people forced to relocate. It was recently awarded a $1.3 million grant to create a tiny home community in Lodi.

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The city manager said it would only serve six people so the city is looking to come up with longer-term solutions.