By Tony Lopez

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — People who live near downtown Sacramento’s freeways say the homeless camps are getting bigger.

“This is the worst it’s been,” said Kelly Morgan, who lives near an encampment.

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Caltrans crews have swept the homeless from state property in the area before, forcing campers to pick up their belongings and move somewhere else.

“It’s probably clear for maybe a week to a month at the most, and then they start creeping back in,” Morgan said.

Caltrans says these encampments put public safety at risk and create a danger for drivers. A fire last February was started in a camp under Highway 50 and forced the temporary closure of the on- and off-ramps.

Now, a new legal ruling could allow the state to permanently ban the homeless along highway right-of-ways.

“I’m happy to hear that there might be some solutions,” Morgan said.

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A previous 9th circuit federal appeals court decision had prevented authorities from forcing the homeless on public property to leave unless there was enough shelter space to accommodate them.

“They have nowhere to go,” said Mark Merin, an attorney and advocate for the homeless.

Now, that same court has released a new decision based on a case in Berkeley that clears the way for Caltrans to remove encampments that create a safety hazard along highways. It’s a ruling that homeless advocates oppose.

“They’re taking this as a precedent but they realize that it’s one thing to say people shouldn’t be here,” Merin said. “It’s another to actually effectively police the areas that are under their control. They spend the money to clear them out and it’s not going away.”

But California Gov. Gavin Newsom has released a statement supporting the court’s decision, saying, in part:

“This is a welcome ruling confirming that we don’t have to let these dangerous conditions continue without taking urgent action.”

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Caltrans says it still plans on giving the homeless at least 72 hours notice before camps are cleared and they try to work with local providers to find a place for the campers to go.