SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — There’s a reason Sergio Estrada keeps a ladder in his backyard.
That’s how he keeps tabs on one of the largest and most violent homeless encampment in San Jose.
“It’s a dangerous place,” Estrada said. “I got to protect my kids and my family.”
Estrada said that people have been living in this mile-long strip for at least 3 years, but the problem has exploded in the past month.
There are piles of debris, dozens of bikes, tents, dogs, generators and people cooking breakfast over a campfire.
In the past four weeks, people have been called out at least seven times for burglary, assault and homicide – a man was recently found beaten to death over a nearby overpass.
“The last three years is dangerous,” Estrada said. “There’s no safety place over here.”
Elliott Hall says he’s homeless because it’s hard to find work ever since he was released from prison in 2008.
He says he tries to keep the area clean and welcomes cleanup crews.
“I think it’ll be good,” he said of the cleanup efforts. “I can’t do it by myself.”
Jose Pantin, a 64-year-old former butcher and janitor, is among the camp residents. He collects cans for money and eats at a local soup kitchen.
“I think it my case, yes I feel bad,” he said of the conditions at the encampment.
Caltrans owns the property and have cleaned up the area 12 times between April; and June, but they have not been back since.
Caltrans officials say they are understaffed and busy cleaning up other encampments in the Bay Area.