ATLANTA - It is a problem which is not getting a lot of attention, but one police and airport staff believe may increase very soon. The number of homeless people camping inside the airport has been causing some concern for travelers, but now it is impacting employees as well.
For months, FOX 5 News has been discussing the challenges Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been facing with the homeless population. Some workers are now speaking out discussing how their encounters with the homeless during the course of their normal routine have turned frightening. In particular, the cleaning crews who are trying to keep the airport sanitary.
Those employees agree that most exhibit docile behavior, just wanting to find a place to sit or sleep. But there have been few incidents where the homeless turn aggressive, shouting and cursing at staff wanting to clean bathrooms or clean other areas of the airport.
A maintenance employee, who did not want to reveal her name or face, said run ins with hostile homeless people is an all too familiar incident, one which she said she can’t even properly convey in polite conversation.
“Then they’ll come back and try to do it again and it's like you got to keep going to get the police. It’s not fair that I got to keep calling the police because I’m trying to do my job. You know, just to get them out so the passengers can go to the bathroom. But sometimes that doesn't work so easy,” the employees said.
“It's not. I think it's important for our employees to understand that rather than confronting individuals that may or may not do them harm, that it's important that they contact an officer,” said Atlanta City Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms.
“If there's anyone at the airport who feels in any way threatened or unsafe, I would advise that person, that employee, or passenger, to approach a member of law enforcement. Fortunately, homelessness has reduced here. So, we're seeing fewer and fewer incidents like that,” said Reese McCranie, airport spokesperson.
McCranie said they are cutting back on the number of homeless at the airport because of an increase in aggressiveness.
Councilmember Bottoms said there needs to be a focus on a comprehensive approach, not just focus on getting them up off the carpet and out of there for one night. An approach that would help prevent them from finding shelter at the airport in the first place.
Police said they are concerned that with the closure of the homeless shelter downtown, more people will try to find the airport as a refuge.