Trash from homeless camps impacting South Bay waterways

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SAN JOSE (KRON) — A perfect storm — that’s how a South Bay environmental watchdog organization describes the impact homeless camps are having on local waterways.

At the banks of the Guadalupe River, off in the distance you’ll find a long line of green garbage bags filled with trash that was pulled out of the water.

The South Bay Clean Creeks Association says that trash would otherwise have ended up in the bay and they warn the problem of homeless camps along the water is as bad as ever.

Whether the homeless have left experimental housing like Hope Village or have been swept from camps along the freeway, many of the homeless are returning to or have long been camping along local waterways like the Guadalupe River.

Much of the trash from those camps ends up in the water.

It’s an environmental disaster, says Steve Holmes of the South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition.

“This issue is, whether we have hope village in place or not, we have dozens of people who are living here along these waterways and you have the destruction of a natural resource,” Holmes said.

Holmes showed KRON4’s Rob Fladeboe a stretch of the Guadalupe River which was recently cleaned up. Despite that there is still plenty of trash in the water and along the bank,

Holmes showed KRON4 pictures of trash near current and former encampments along the Guadalupe, Coyote and Los Gatos creeks.

“Because the homeless are allowed to live right on the water, all their trash goes into the water and when storms wash it out into the bay, it gets pulverized so a plastic bag that was once piece is now 150 pieces,” he said.

There is some progress though.

Clean creeks volunteers have picked up 395 tons of trash. Valley Water says it spent almost $2 million last year collecting 1,200 tons of trash.

Chinook salmon have been spotted along with a family of beavers.

But what’s needed says holmes is a buffer zone to keep the homeless from camping at the water’s edge.

‘We’re not saying criminalize the homeless, we’re just saying lets have both as priorities, healthy streams and better locations for the homeless to camp,” Holmes said.

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