Nearly three months ago, Joel Castle invited the homeless of Chico, Calif., to stay on a patch of land he's leasing in an industrial neighborhood. The dozens of people who took him up on the offer share tents and a garden, but others in the city aren't happy with what authorities say is an illegal homeless camp, the Chico Enterprise-Record reports. More people have been joining the encampment, a city building official says (the current estimate is 55), and yet earlier this month there was "still only one port-a-potty," so health and sanitation are concerns. (The sole portable toilet has since reportedly been removed.) Neighbors are worried residents of the camp are defecating in a nearby creek; authorities want the Butte County Environmental Health Department to do an official inspection into sanitation concerns.
There have also been complaints that camp residents are stealing lumber from the Payless Building Supply across the street from the camp and setting it on fire, though those complaints have not been verified. Fire Department officials have checked out the site and they say the fires aren't dangerous; residents are likely using them to cook. Though there have been no reports of rowdy behavior, locals and officials are also worried about garbage and "clutter." Castle has been cited by authorities twice for land-use violation, and the owners of the land have served him with a 30-day notice to vacate; they say the lease agreement does not allow for people to stay on the land overnight. The 30 days are now up, but as the Oroville Mercury-Register reports, a civil eviction process must now take place between the land owner and the tenant, which will likely take at least a month. (Read more homeless stories.)