Rail death in Rohnert Park associated with growing homeless population

A homeless woman was killed by a commuter train in the North Bay Thursday morning. 

She had reportedly been warned several times to stay off the track. 

Just before 8 a.m. a northbound SMART train struck and killed the woman at the Golf Course Road crossing in Rohnert Park. 

Coincidentally, the city cleared out the well-established encampment right next to the crossing where the death occurred. 

Though the victim's name has not been released, the accident was immediately called in to 911. 

"Based on some video footage from the train you can see the female walk under the crossing guards, so the crossing guards were down," said Rohnert Park Police Deputy Chief Aaron Johnson. "You see her run under the gate and try and run across the track at which time she was hit."

KTVU's Tom Vacar spoke with several people who said that the victim was homeless and spent time at the encampment near the tracks as well as another homeless encampment across the street. 

"She's been contacted along with other individuals and warned about the issues being so close to the tracks and how unsafe it is," said SMART Train Police Chief Jennifer McGill. 

Several people said the woman was very belligerent to authorities. 

Railside homeless encampments are a problem plaguing railroads all across California and the nation. 

Jennie Lynn Holmes of Catholic Charities in the North Bay says railroad tracks are particularly attractive to homeless people. 

"Try to get out of the public eye; often times that is along railroad tracks whether it's in a more urban community or a more rural community, usually it's a little bit more hidden. It definitely does attract people to come," said Holmes.    

Once cleared, the encampments often pop up in another nearby location time and again. 

"We have a constant daily battle that we are dealing with trespassers along the right-of-way, both homeless and non-homeless," said McGill.

Five people have now died on the SMART tracks since it opened less than two years ago.