SACRAMENTO -- Dozens of homeless were ordered to leave a large encampment along Stockton Boulevard on Wednesday morning, leading to a tense standoff between advocates and law enforcement.
The Sacramento Redevelopment and Housing Agency has plans to build affordable housing units and retail on the lot in the coming years.
The area saw hours of demonstration, frustration and, at some points, confrontation as the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department began evicting people from the homeless encampment.
"The living conditions here are completely unsanitary. They're not safe for really any human being to be in," Sacramento County Sheriff's Public Information Officer Tess Deterding explained.
Deputies have been making trips out to the property since January, providing resources to try to get people into more permanent housing.
"They give us these vouchers maybe for a motel night here or there, one or two nights but it’s a dead end," Emily, who has been homeless for the last eight years, told FOX40.
The encampment has since only grown and the sheriff's office believes it's now negatively impacting the surrounding community.
"Causing increase in thefts, vehicle thefts. Violent crimes have been occurring here. We had 69 calls for service here in the last six months, which is just astronomical for any one location within the county," Deterding said.
For the people living in the encampment, the empty lot that was once the San Juan Motel offers a sense of safety.
"Just all of a sudden, everybody's here and I can't blame them because you get harassed on the streets and you have no place to go, so it's someplace to lay your head at night that you feel safe, you know?" Billy Murphy said.
Murphy is one of the more than 150 people who have been calling the property home.
He has been living there for more than two years and he says without this camp, he has nowhere to go.
"I'm not trying to get nothing for free. I'm not trying to do none of that but, man, I'm not going to sleep on the curb either. I'm not going to lay my head on the curb neither," Murphy said.
Murphy said he'd like to see the area become a permanent campground that's regulated by the county to help people get out of homeless situations.
But, until there are more affordable housing options available, he and more than 150 others will be forced to find somewhere else to sleep.
"To me, they just declared war, take our stuff, just do whatever they can to displace us and I just think that's very unfair. I've given up how many times? I can't give up no more. I can't give up for my friends; I can't give up," Murphy said. "Smile is the only thing I can do. Smile and hope another day comes tomorrow."
Two women were arrested during the demonstration Wednesday morning.
Neighbors say they are glad something was done.
"If they were clean I would not have a problem with them being here, I really wouldn't. But look at the mess they create," one neighbor said.
Many neighbors did not want to be identified or show their faces over a fear of retaliation, but they say living next to the camp has been a nightmare.
"It is so nasty back there," a neighbor said. "There's people out there protesting, talking about, 'Let them be.' Take them with you. Put them in your yard. Give them your room. See how you like it."
Rachael Miller, who lives a few blocks away, worries some homeless may move to her neighborhood.
"I don’t even let my daughter go in the front yard because I see a lot of the people on the bikes come in the neighborhood from this," she said.
Meanwhile, Erin says she doesn't know where she'll go.
"Being outside in the wind constantly, it just gets to me," Erin said. "It's draining, it's debilitating. And it's tiring."