Tyrone Harris lives underneath the 94. He has been homeless for about two years. “You would think people would have a lot more sympathy or empathy for people in our circumstances, but unfortunately sometimes we are literally invisible,” he told NBC 7.
Overnight Monday, two pedestrians, who the California Highway Patrol (CHP) suspect may have been homeless themselves, were killed in separate incidents while walking on State Route 94 and Interstate 805. Harris said crossing the freeway is something he’s done from time to time, but he avoids rush hour.
“If you wait until the traffic gets calmed down a little or wait until later in the evening when rush hour traffic isn’t so hectic, you have a better chance of survival,” he said.
CHP officers say they regularly speak to homeless people living near freeways, and the numbers are growing. “It's sad because these people have nowhere to go,” CHP Officer Pete Thepkulchon said. “They like to be on state property because it’s away from everyone. They feel it’s quiet. Some people even claim that they like to hear traffic go by. It makes them feel relaxed."
Land alongside freeways is state property, which is why officers advise people that setting up camps there is illegal. They give them at least 72 hours to move their things and try to point them in the right direction.
“We ask them questions in regards to their background to see if we can offer any type of assistance,” Officer Thepkulchon said.
On Tuesday, Thepkulchon and fellow CHP officers didn’t crack down on Harris; they just tried to give him some help.
“They've given me some resources that show various places where I can go eat food, clothing, shelter,” he said. “I’ve come across quite a few CHPs that have been more helpful than harmful. A lot of them try to give you assistance the best way they can, but they can only do so much with the resources they have.”
“You have people that are obviously homeless and they’re just trying to get to a place where they can stay. Unfortunately, it’s not safe for them on the freeway,” CHP Officer Jake Sanchez added. “So trying to get them the resources that are available to them is an important part.”