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CBS2 Exclusive: Homeless People Seen Sleeping, Bathing At LaGuardia Airport

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Upon Mayor Bill de Blasio's announcement Thursday of a new program to address the homelessness crisis, CBS2 found more people in desperate need of help.

Amidst the busy travel season, many people are rushing to LaGuardia Airport. But as CBS2's Meg Baker reported exclusively, they may be surprised to see homeless people sleeping over a heating duct on a window ledge -- right next to a Christmas tree there.

At 2 a.m. one person was spotted asleep in a wheelchair with plastic bags full of belongings. People were also seen camped out in sleeping bags, and even bathing themselves in public restrooms.

They clean themselves and their clothes in full public view.

"I've been staying here for a while," one 68-year-old homeless man said. "Most everybody here is homeless."

The man said he has been staying at LaGuardia for years. He began talking to CBS2's Baker near the baggage claim carousels in Terminal B.

The man said he prefers to stay at the airport because he feels safe – pointing out a nearby security camera.

"You're much safer here than in a shelter," the man said. "Because with all this stuff here, I can get knifed. I can have bedbugs on me; lice. I'm 68 years old. I don't need the hassle. I sit and watch CNN all day."

The man said the others who were spotted around him had been there just as long.

"They're camped out there; I mean, a lot of people," he said.

The man said maybe 100 people stay at the terminal, but they are spread out.

At 2:30 a.m., CBS2 counted more than 50 people asleep in the food court, near baggage claim, in waiting areas and tucked away near restrooms. There was an overwhelming smell detectable where the homeless congregate.

They were also seen using the public restrooms to groom themselves. One man bathed and shaved himself in a men's room sink, while a woman dried her clothes on the women's room hand dryer.

"People are working now; they're living paycheck to paycheck, you know? They're one paycheck away from sitting where I'm sitting," the man in Terminal B said. "Isn't that sad?"

Some others living at the airport were not as friendly, including two people who were seen with cats.

The presence of so many homeless people left passengers waiting for early flights concerned.

"You kind of forget on a day-to-day basis that people are living like this every day," said a passenger named Lydia.

"This isn't good for tourism either, you know, for the people to see when they get here that there's, you know, in the United States, people living in the airport," said passenger Sergio Brok.

The man in Terminal B said police generally leave the homeless alone at the airport.

"The Port Authority police, well, they don't really bother us -- as long as you're not a knucklehead," he said.

During the day, the man said he takes a bus and then a subway to the Meatpacking District to panhandle. But he always comes back to is seat in front of the TV at the airport.

"Maybe next year, things get a little bit better; I'll move on somewhere," he said. "But where can you go?"

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