City and volunteers clean homeless camp - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

City and volunteers clean homeless camp

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

City officials and volunteers spent their Saturday afternoon pitching in to help clean up a homeless camp in Savannah. Nearly 40 people live in a wooded area off of Louisville Road near I-16. City officials believe most of the trash has been there for more than 20 years and is not from the current residents.

"It was so bad that the people that lived here before us didn't really know how to clean their area," said resident Heather Ouellette.

Ouellette says she has lived in this tent village for nearly a year and half.  She and the other residents say they keep their areas clean but that was not enough.

"It got to the point I had to keep my animals away from there because they could have gotten sick," said Ouellette.

After bringing their concerns to local law enforcement and city officials, that's when the city and other volunteers decided it was time to gear up and clean up.

"We are out here today to help the residents in this community and raise the base line level of human dignity," said volunteer Mary Meeks.  

According to officials at the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless Authority, nearly 4,900 homeless folks live in Savannah. Even though there are shelters and programs, some folks are too independent.

"You're really dealing with self determination," said Carlos Baker, program manager for the Chatham- Savannah Authority for the Homeless.

City officials say forcing them to leave is also not a solution.

 "If you displace the homeless from one area, they are going to migrate to another area," said Susan Broker, Director of the Savannah Citizen Office.

Instead, the city wants to build relationships with folks in the homeless community who also want to help make Savannah a better place.  

"Our area is like a house, we like to have it cleaned instead of being a mess," said Ouellette.

Crews tell WTOC they are still calculating the amount of trash but they believe they will have collected more than 19 tons of trash.  

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