Stroudsburg, Monroe County - While traffic zooms across the Veterans Memorial Bridge, nine homeless people struggle to survive underneath it.
They live among piles of dirty clothes, old food containers, and ripped mattresses. It's far from comfortable. But campers say shelters are full and they don't know what to do. John Studeny lives there with his dog Lexi. He said, "I don't like the situation I'm in but there is no place for anybody to go."
But he and the others will have to find somewhere to go. Police say the camp is unsanitary and unsafe.
Police have known for a while that homeless people sleep under the bridge between Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg. But over the weekend they learned occasional overnights had turned into a full blown camp. An officer responded to a call that someone was throwing things over the bridge. When the officer arrived to investigate the litter complaint, he discovered the homeless community.
Stroud Area Regional Police Captain Brian Kimmins said, "They noticed that it was in quite a state of disarray. There was human fecal matter that was there. Nine people were living under the bridge; there was garbage all over the place. Very unhealthy, very unsanitary."
There is some concern that the mess could impact the Brodhead Creek. Kimmins explained, "We do have to worry about the types of pollution that could be generated. They cook there. They eat there. They defecate there. They urinate there."
Plus the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has complained camp fires could harm the bridge and make it dangerous for drivers.
So police plan to disband the camp. Kimmins said, "This condition didn't happen overnight. We're not gonna throw everybody out overnight." He added, "There is a humanitarian aspect here. We can't walk in there and say just everybody go. Could we do it? Sure. Is it the right thing to do? No."
Police have not set a specific date for when the campers must move. Kimmins said they will work with area agencies to try to find people places to stay. Studeny said, "I'll go peaceably. I'm not going to chain myself to the bridge."
The Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church wants to help. People from the camp already stay at that church when the weather gets extremely cold. Pastor Lynda Keefer said, "That's the calling that Christ gives us to, when we see someone in need to meet that need if we have the ability to do so, which we do."
She hopes to work with other churches to start programs that will help people find temporary shelter and permanent housing.
Police say they will work together with homeless advocates, the Stroudsburg Borough, road crews, maintenance workers, and the campers to make sure the transition goes smoothly.