SAN RAFAEL (KPIX) — Authorities late Monday morning started to clear out a North Bay homeless camp that was located under a San Rafael freeway overpass.

Both Caltrans and city officials said they had no choice but to force the unhoused people living there to leave.

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The entire eviction process will last hours. Crews arrived late in the morning to begin clearing out the tents and shacks under the U.S. Highway 101 overpass at the intersection of Fourth and Heatherton near downtown San Rafael.

People living in tents and cars had pieced together an entire neighborhood built largely with scavenged items. They called the dismantling of the encampment a big systematic failure.

“That place has been a good place of healing and peace for people,” said encampment resident Christian Gift.

After Caltrans crews started hauling items and clearing the encampment, people who lived here said workers might crush their homes, but it won’t crush their spirits.

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Throughout California, there is only shelter for roughly 30% of people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s devastating when your community is ripped apart; what you built, what you’ve been able to bring together and coalesce, and then the state comes in and rips it to shreds,” said Robbie Powelson of the Marin County Homeless Union.

San Rafael officials say over the last five years, local and state leaders have been working hard to end chronic homelessness by giving services and support. This particular encampment on state property underneath Highway 101 has been growing greatly since the pandemic started. The city says it simply got too large.

“The reason there’s so many people underneath the viaduct is because when people go in to San Rafael and try to pitch a tent, SRPD snatched peoples tents,” explained Powelson.

Caltrans says police and fire calls to the area of the encampment have doubled, including calls for violent crimes and theft.

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Caltrans told KPIX it has been working with the city and county to help unhoused residents move into permanent housing or shelters.