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Dozens Of Homeless People Camp Out Permanently At LaGuardia Airport

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The New York City homelessness crisis has reached new heights, with dozens of people now finding shelters in airport terminals.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported Monday, while travelers come and go at LaGuardia Airport, some people never leave. Dozens of people call Terminal B home, lugging around everything they own – even their TV and antenna for better reception.

One man claimed he was to be on a United Airlines flight to Miami on Monday.

"Guess what -- I'm flying first class, there and back," the man said.

But it turned out the flight the man claimed he would be on did not exist, and several airport workers said the man has been hanging around the airport for a couple of weeks.

Two weeks ago, CBS2's cameras also captured video of a man sitting in the Central Terminal food court. On Monday afternoon, he was still there.

Restaurant employees said the man has been living at LaGuardia for a year, and a wheelchair-bound man and his partner have been living there for up to five years.

Vendors who could not speak on camera said as many as 50 homeless people are living in the Central Terminal at LaGuardia – eating, sleeping and even bathing there.

"It's safe. It's clean. It's heated. It's air-conditioned. There's food there," said former Department of Homeless Services Deputy Commissioner Robert Mascali.

Mascali said though it is an unusual choice, the airport has become the new option.

"They don't feel comfortable in the shelters," Mascali said, "and this place, as I explained before, has a lot of amenities for them."

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is responsible for policing the homeless population at its major airports.

It contracts with nonprofit human services providers such as Volunteers of America, reaching out to the homeless every day and offering services and relocation to shelters if possible.

Travelers said they are concerned.

"The number one concern is the safety of everyone in the city -- especially here at the airport," said traveler Luis Sora.

"It would be really nice to have them have help," said traveler Alexandra Rabuffo. "I know a lot of people work with their local churches and things to try and help that out, but it's never really enough with this many people."

The Port Authority deals with the same challenge as the NYPD. Airports are considered public space, so officers are unable to move the homeless from the airports unless they are causing a disturbance.

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