Hundreds of homeless people living near industrial park in Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- On Thursday, Eyewitness News was in Riverside where hundreds of people are living in an encampment next to an industrial park.

It looks like something you'd see in a third-world country: graffiti, burned up cars, tents and trash.

One man who didn't want to go on camera said the business he runs backs right up to the homeless encampment in the area, which is known as Hole Lake.

Five years ago, he said there were about half a dozen tents back there. He said that today, there are about 500 to 600 people living there.

"If they give us a decent place to live, we'd be all right," said one homeless woman.

She's physically disabled, mentally ill and has drug problems. She'll likely never be able to support herself.

"The rules, no. I'd rather not be at a shelter," she said.

A recently-formed Riverside Public Safety Engagement team is working toward engaging with the homeless and offering services.

Some said they estimate between 90 and 95% of the chronically homeless turn down services they're offered, or they just don't follow through.

Most of those in need also have substance abuse problems.

But where you used to be sent to jail for many drug crimes -- where substance abuse treatment was part of the condition for release -- the way the law is now, many drug crimes are just misdemeanors.

So unless people are willing to go into treatment themselves, many of them don't get it.

"We don't have a place for these individuals, these human beings, to dry out so to speak, to correct themselves. They don't have a timeout," said Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey. "Jail is not accepting them for substance abuse anymore, for drugs and addiction."

And drug dealing brings a criminal element.

Since the homeless encampment exploded in Hole Lake, there have been mail thefts, car break-ins and fires.

Of course, every now and then the city will force everyone out, but for these businesses, that doesn't address the problem for long.

Brenda Boring, who is homeless, is one of the few Eyewitness News spoke with who said she didn't have substance abuse problems but said housing is too expensive.

"Apartments are $1,800, and if you get $400 on a room rental, they'll bring you in there to sell drugs," she explained.

She said she doesn't know what the answer is.

"Sometimes you give people too much help, and the next thing you know they're doing meth in the street," she said. "Or you don't help them enough and they're dead along the sidewalk, so this is a really hard problem."
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