By Wilson Walker

ANTIOCH (KPIX 5) — City officials in Antioch are telling those squatting in a homeless encampment that they have to move because there are too many people living there.

The encampment is on a lot near 6th Street and McElheney Road just east of downtown Antioch

It has dozens of tents providing shelter for even more people who for one reason or another landed in this vacant lot.

“Better than just sleeping under a bridge,” said Matt, one of the numerous homeless people living there. “We walked here from the BART station.”

But on Thursday, they got word that it’s time to move on.

“We have to be out by Monday,” said Matt. “A lot of us have no place else to go.”

Kurt Michael is with Antioch Code Enforcement. He says the rapid growth of this camp in recent months has left the city no choice but to remove it in as humanely a way as possible.

“The issue we have here is the size of the encampment,” said Michael. “This is raw garbage collecting, causing a health issue. There are toilets with human waste. There is debris in that creek that flows right into the San Joaquin River over behind the railroad tracks.”

Michael said the organization is working with other groups to try to find housing options.

“We’ve contracted the Department of Veterans affairs, Housing Inc., our CORE program which provides resources for housing,” explained Michael.

But Antioch is not alone facing the problem. Santa Rosa is in the process of trying to relocate nearly 100 people in a makeshift encampment there. No longer a problem for the Bay Area’s urban core, the entire region is being confronted with a fast-growing population of people with no place to go.

“We used to serve some of these people at CVS and Target,” said Vicki Proctor with Extended Hands Ministry. “Then they all moved here.”

“The churches have been great, but they can only do so much, said a homeless man who gave his name as Frank. “We need more help, and some understanding that some of us don’t want to live like this.”

Antioch officials say they will do the best they can.

“I also want to make sure we’re providing resources to their companions, the animals they have with them,” said Michael. “That’s why we’re also bringing out animal services.”

When asked if he had any sense of where he might go next, a desperate Matt simply replied, “Insane?”

As for those who don’t land in a shelter or housing, they say they’ll just go on relying on each other.

“It’s community. It’s all we have,” said Matt. “We’ll just have to get by as best we can, until we can find something better.”

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