The countdown is on as Lompoc city leaders prepare to close the triage center set up to help homeless people evicted from the riverbed last month.
The Lompoc City Council just declared the riverbed a local emergency.
Less than a third of the people forced out of the riverbed remain at the triage center, just days away from its closing, but city leaders say they still have a long way to go with cleanup.
“[It’s] really unbelievable,” said Capt. Deanna Clement of the Lompoc Police Dept. “It’s amazing to see the amount of debris down there.”
Less than one month after 69 people were evicted from this homeless encampment in Lompoc’s Riverfront Park, the riverbed resembles a landfill.
“We’d like to have it cleaned up as soon as possible, but it’s a really big job,” said Christie Alarcon, Lompoc Community Development Dept. Program Manager. “There’s a lot of material, so we expect it to take a number of months.”
Clothing, food waste, human waste, and needles used for drug use culminates into one big biohazard that will take significant time and money to clean up.
“Half a million to a million dollars are our current estimates,” Alarcon said.
What is not down there anymore is people.
“There are 22 clients remaining at the triage center and all of them have exit plans,” said Stacy Lawson, Lompoc Senior Environmental Coordinator.
Clement says to date five people are now in residential drug treatment, nine went into clean and sober shelters, three were taken in by family, and two have found permanent housing.
“We did think we’d see people moving onto the bus benches and out front of businesses but we have not seen that,” she said.
So far the project is a success, for the most part. Clement says five people have been cited for trespassing after trying to return to the riverbed.
Now that it’s declared a local emergency, Lompoc city leaders are hopeful the state will pitch in to help restore the riverbed.
The city is appealing to landlords in the area to accept Section 8 housing applications to move many of the remaining people at the triage center into permanent housing.
The triage center closes Wednesday, 30 days after the riverbed was evacuated.