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People sleeping once again at homeless camp the city cleared in March

What does it mean that the Camp 83 site, between Central Booking and I-83, has makeshift shelters once again?

camp 83 site 11 18 13

People have returned to “Camp 83,” the encampment of homeless people cleared away by the city in March.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Tears were shed, protests held and a city-wide debate raged over the decision by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to clear an encampment of homeless people from a strip of land wedged between the Fallsway and an I-83/Jones Falls Expressway on-ramp.

But one thing is certain about the old “Camp 83″ site – it didn’t take long for homeless people to return there.

Yesterday, as picketers were in front of City Hall protesting what they consider to be the latest draconian assault on the destitute – a proposed de-facto ban on downtown begging – the administration crackdown’s on the camp last spring appeared to have been only a fleeting victory:

There was a makeshift shelter, with blankets and tarps anchored to a low on-ramp wall by string, straps and chunks of concrete.

Toothbrush and other toiletry items on expressway ledge. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Toothbrush and other toiletry items on expressway ledge. (Photo by Fern Shen)

There were socks hung on trees, rubber sandals in the grass, water in plastic  jugs, small suitcases, duffel bags and a re-usable shopping bag filled with empty plastic water bottles and a roll of toilet paper.

Along the top of the ledge of the on-ramp (closed right now for JFX construction work) there were toothbrushes, mouthwash, deodorant and soap. Plus pens, Spanish-language brochures, a dog-eared Bible and a bulletin from the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen.

Thousands Without Homes

City officials had said at the time that safety and health concerns drove their decision to dismantle the five-year-old encampment, where 15 people were living and apparently at times using grills to cook food.

They were eventually taken in by the private non-profit, Belvedere Assisted Living. After the residents removed their belongings, city workers hauled off what remained in trash trucks.

A chain link fence was erected, cutting off some, but not all, of the Camp 83 space. A sign on the fence says “Property of DOT.”

Anyone driving north on the Fallsway (near Central Booking) can see that, eight months later, people are living now in front of that fence. Asked yesterday if she’d noticed them, Antonia K. Fasanelli, said “of course.”

Socks, water bottles, toilet paper and other items at former Camp 83 site. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Socks, water bottles, toilet paper and other items at resurrected Camp 83 site. (Photo by Fern Shen)

The executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Fasanelli was in City Hall to see what the City Council would do with the panhandling ban she opposes. (They sent it back to committee.)

“What this tells you is, the effort to clear Camp 83 had nothing to do with solving the problem of homelessness,” she said, noting that homeless people are sleeping under overpasses and in doorways across the city, as well as at the re-colonized Camp 83 site.

Official estimates put the number of people without a home on any given night in Baltimore at about 4,000.

Evicting 15 people from that one spot, Fasanelli said, “was ill-thought-out and obviously ineffective.”

A makeshift tent shelter pitched up against I-83 on-ramp. (Photo by Fern Shen)

A makeshift tent shelter pitched against the Madison Street on-ramp to the JFX. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Soap on the ledge of the I-83 on-ramp. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Soap on the ledge of the I-83 on-ramp. (Photo by Fern Shen)

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  • davethesuave

    We have probably tens of thousands of vacant houses in this city (and even factoring out the dilapidated ones, and the ones whose owners cannot be contacted, and the minority of folks who have mental illnesses and won’t stay anywhere for long, thousands of viable empty houses), and yet many decent, well-meaning and very possibly employed people sleep outside as winter approaches.
    Is there anyone in the corridors of power with any vision beyond the next election cycle?

    • baltimorebrew

      Dave, I tossed the same question out to Brew readers in March: “Why NOT house Baltimore’s many homeless people in Baltimore’s many vacant buildings?” and it got some interesting discussion going, including thoughts from some very knowledgeable folks on this subject like the ACLU’s Barbara Samuels. Here’s the link. – fs http://bit.ly/YMqeVO

  • HipHopCleopatra

    We have to do better with handling issues such as this. The solution cannot be to just do away with the homeless, but to actually relocate them or give them solutions to their issue. It may take a lot of time and money, but I believe it’s a cause we can work for. Its time to start creating better solutions for the city and not just cover up the problem. I am currently working on a site that will aid in those solutions. http://breakbaltimore.com

  • HipHopCleopatra

    I agree that we can put the vacant homes to use, but that would in turn make the city liable. It would also cost a lot of money to make these abandoned homes livable. Why not consider implementing a non-profit for the homeless that has some of the same organization structure of successful non-profits. Take a look at the House of Ruth ( http://tinyurl.com/l2wgr5t ) for example. They have a perfect plan and structure for battered women and children, by providing housing, job training, psychology services and educational services. This does’t come for free though, the mothers are made accountable for at least 100 in rent per month to practice responsibility and accountability for when they re-enter the real world. Take that plan and target the homeless, we would have a re-conditioning program for homeless and essentially get them off the street and on with their lives.

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