City workers trash the remains of Camp 83

"I don't have to live here anymore!" and "It was my home!" Mixed emotions as former homeless camp resident watches.

homeless 1

With residents gone – moved to temporary housing offered this week by a private non-profit, the city proceeded with the razing on schedule.

Photo by: Fern Shen

As workers this morning stuffed the remains of Camp 83 into plastic bags and threw them onto trash trucks, one of the former residents of the homeless encampment watched. She was crying.

“In a way, I didn’t want them to stop the eviction because I knew people were going to help us live somewhere else. People have been so, so nice to us, bringing us all kinds of things,” Tracy Jones said, tears welling up and rolling down her cheeks as she looked at the eviction-in-progress. “I don’t have to live here any more.”

At the same time, Jones said, the sight of them pulling down the tent where she and her husband Charlie had been living, along with other homeless people, was upsetting.

“It was my home for a year,” she said, sobbing, as the workers clambered down an embankment from their garbage trucks.

Tracy Jones, a former resident of Camp 83, watching city workers clearing away the encampment. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Tracy Jones, a former resident of Camp 83, watching city workers clearing away the encampment. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Except for one former Camp 83 resident who was incarcerated, the rest of the group has moved to temporary housing and gave their permission by phone this morning for the city to throw away the remains of their camp, in a sliver of land between the Madison Street on-ramp to I-83 and Central Booking.

Despite weeks of protest from homeless advocates – who questioned why the city wasn’t waiting to find hotel or other housing for the encampment-dwellers before evicting them – the razing took place on schedule. It was a private non-profit group, Belvedere Homes, that came up with a place for the people living there to go.

25 Protesters

“This is just shameful,” said Jeff Singer, former president of Healthcare for the Homeless and a longtime advocate for homeless people in Baltimore.

Protesters at the on-ramp to the Jones Falls Expressway north, as city workers cleared the homeless encampment there. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Protesters at the on-ramp to the Jones Falls Expressway north, as city workers cleared the homeless encampment there. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Singer was among about 25 people who held signs for passing motorists and the media saying, “Is this how we treat our neighbors?” and “Is this how we end homelessness?”

It was left to Gabby Knighton, outreach coordinator in the city’s Homeless Services Program, to explain to reporters the basis for camp clearing that advocates say was needlessly harsh.

“Word came down from above that the camp was a health and safety risk,” Knighton explained to a television reporter. “Some camps just go away on their own, but this one continued for years.”

Also watching the process was Antonia Fasanelli, executive director of the Homeless Person’s Representation Project. She said she was disappointed by the city’s conduct and found it “strange.”

“It became clear that housing was not a priority here,” she said. “The city was simply interested in destroying the encampment and removing the people.”

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  • John Stechschulte

    “Word came down from above that the camp was a health and safety risk,” so God told you to clear the camp?

  • Mair

    Can’t help but wonder where those people would be if all those wonderful advocates didn’t have their back.

  • Matthew Riesner

    So they are given free housing but can’t clean up their own mess…where is the personal responsibility here? What kind of message does that send? These are children or adults? I wonder how this story is going to end in a few years…

    So in Baltimore you can be homeless, set up a camp on public land, be given housing, and then leave your mess for a city worker to remove. Wait until the word gets out we will have every homeless person in the mid-atlantic coming here.

  • KnowNothingParty

    I am suprised that Mayor Failings Blake couldnt come up with a way to tax or charge a fee to the homeless, their advocates, a bird that landed near the camp, the companies that made those poster board signs, all the county residents who drove by Camp 83 while commuting or all of the above.  And she calls her self a progressive.

  • cwals99

    I want to add this as a voice for the homeless in Baltimore. We are witnessing….or with media’s ignoring the issue, not witnessing a level of human rights violations that do not exist in first world countries:

    Regarding the changing of the Internal Investigations head for Baltimore police:

    There are deep concerns for the policies unfolding regarding policing
    and security in Baltimore and they begin with the selection of Chief
    Batts as chief some months ago and they extend to Maryland security
    policy. We knew when City Hall brought Batts to Baltimore from decades
    with Long Beach and Oakland, California
    he had a long history of administrations cloaked with transparency
    problems and abuse cases. His administrations were found to have
    officers feeling constrained to a Code of Silence that is prevalent in
    California and New York. So changing the Internal Affairs head would
    follow that direction. We have seen a few high media reports of police
    abuse almost all of which came from social media posts and not our local
    mainstream media. Each time a person places police abuse on social
    media they seem to end up in legal trouble as we saw with the Preakness
    event where the gentleman had his phone confiscated and pictures deleted
    and said after the process he feared police. We know there is a civil
    rights activist MacAuthur in jail now without bail…..for several
    months….likely receiving what everyone calls unprecedented treatment
    because he placed his interaction with the police on social media. The
    police are sending a message that the police actions will remain opaque
    at all cost.

    We heard Baltimore’s War on Homelessness has
    stalled and we are hearing that the War against the Homeless has
    heightened since Batts came to town. All one has to do is talk to the
    homeless: ‘We are being treated like dogs. They are not letting us sit
    down and we can’t sleep in places we have been safe to sleep. Shelters
    downtown charge $3 a night and housing that can be gotten by people
    with benefits have several people stuffed into rowhouses where each room
    is rented at $500 each. One house making several thousand dollars off
    of people renting one room. Code Blue shelters are dangerous’. One of
    the most disturbing stories have to do with criminal police that use
    firearms and drugs as plants on the poor and homeless to set them up for
    charges and at the very least, used to frighten them. My talks have
    found this practice has skyrocketed under Batts. ‘The police will place
    a police revolver on a baton through the trigger casing so as to not
    transfer prints and state to the homeless…….here, this is your
    gun…..’. We all know how many people are being shot by the police
    under the guise of people having guns…..many never do. So this policy
    is meant to send a message that if you do not go you will be framed.
    These homeless men told me they are placed in jail because of drugs/guns
    planted by police for months and are sometimes sentenced for 5 years or
    more for doing nothing more than being homeless in Baltimore.

    One last comment on security…..I saw a security guard outside Bank of
    America this week with an unrecognizable business logo. I asked for
    whom he worked. He stated he was with an International Security Group
    and looked like a muscle bound special operations person. This was in
    Charles Village. We are seeing a level of security that mirrors Third
    World societies. Citizens are only citizens if those who they elect and
    those in public service are just that……….PUBLIC SERVANTS. NONE

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