DOT doubles down on homeless problem after fire under Big-I

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Department of Transportation has had enough of homeless people camping out underneath bridges. Overnight, the campers started a fire underneath a Big-I onramp.

The fire left behind a lot of smoke damage, all caused by a homeless group starting a fire in a barrel to stay warm. Monday, DOT crews installed a steel plate to keep people from crawling under the bridge.

“Whatever it takes. We’ve used anything from locks, but unfortunately, locks have been broken off or torched off, so they find their means to get into there,” DOT spokesperson Kimberly Gallegos said. “But we are working diligently to keep them out and we’re encouraging the homeless people to go into some type of homeless shelter.”

The DOT in Albuquerque says it checks underpasses every day for camps, but it’s sometimes difficult to prevent groups from getting inside. It’s messes like this one from Monday morning’s fire that the department is having a hard time dealing with.

At about 1 a.m., someone called 911 saying smoke was rising up from a ramp to the Big-I. When firefighters arrived, they found it in a crawl space built into the flyover on the northside of the Big-I off I-40.

A homeless group had lit a barrel on fire to keep warm.

Those with the DOT say they deal with the homeless along the interstate constantly.

“You know, it’s really frustrating because it seems like as soon as we clean them up, they pop up again and it seems like once we get them out of one area, they pop up a little further down the freeway,” Gallegos said.

These homeless camps don’t just include people. The department says they leave behind a lot of waste, clothes, trash and other items. Sometimes that includes human waste and other dangers, which means Solid Waste has to be called in to help clean it up.

The city does have a team that constantly visits these areas and shares resources with the homeless. They always encourage them to go to a shelter, but many people simply don’t want to.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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