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Multi-agency group sweeps up 3 homeless encampments

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    NEW YORK (WCBS) — There are now three fewer homeless encampments in Manhattan.

Friday, a multi-agency effort swept away camps in Midtown West and Hell’s Kitchen, and those cleanup teams made some surprising discoveries.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin exclusively reports, under a long-standing construction sidewalk shed was a jumbled encampment of tents, bikes, and furniture crowding much of the block on West 41st Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.

Friday morning brought a sweep, with NYPD officers and workers from city sanitation and homeless outreach. People were told to pick a few favorite items, and watch the rest get tossed.

A rude wake up call, is how they described it.

“Unfortunately, no matter where you go to sleep, you ended up getting woken up. So on and so forth,” one homeless person told Carlin.

The city workers were in for a big surprise. Inside a tent were a pair of brand new motorcycles, which encampment members rolled over to their save pile with no apparent follow-up by investigators.

The team left to dismantle another pair of pop-ups. The next stop for the crew was another encampment alongside the FedEx building at the corner of the West Side Highway and West 48th Street. It was a smaller set up, but not by much.

At that encampment, a railing became a clothes line, next to bikes for riding, and boxes for sleeping in. Electricity was pulled in on extension cords from street lamps.

The people who live there are familiar to Maria Martinez, who’s worked at FedEx for 16 years. She wants them moved out.

“Because it’s our workplace it’s not safe for us,” Martinez said.

She says their stuff’s been moved out before, and always they return.

“They used to be over there and they make a fire,” Martinez said.

What appears to take the longest during these operations is consulting and negotiating, with homeless outreach workers talking to individuals who are down on their luck. Carlin was told in this Friday clean up, no one was eager to take the city up on offers of shelter.

“I would much rather sleep on the street and risk God knows what being on the street rather than a shelter, where it’s pretty much like a glorified prison,” one homeless person told Carlin.

Some sanitation workers, who would not talk on camera, confided in Carlin that they hate this part of the job. Not only do they feel sorry for the homeless, they face increased dangers, when the same homeless return to the same spots, not cared for, not given services – just back and angrier.

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