SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A ‘tent city’ for homeless people was discovered and dismantled today in South Bend.
An estimated 10 to 15 homeless campers were displaced.
The trespassers weren’t arrested but they were evicted.
The location of the camp was one block north of the Center for the Homeless and two blocks south of the Hope Rescue Mission.
“I’m blown away,” said Property Manager Carey Camarata. “I’m seeing another side of South Bend that, you know, unfortunately is here, I wish it wouldn’t be.”
Camarata manages the commercial property at 702 S. Michigan were a worker first discovered someone living behind the business in a homemade cardboard hut.
Even in broad daylight, the huts and tents were virtually invisible—obscured in heavy vegetation along the railroad tracks.
“There’s tents there, there’s tents back over in the wooded area there. There’s people that just don’t have nowhere else to go,” said Bruce Wattson, who was among the displaced. “The shelters are full and they stay back, buy a tent and stay back there.”
Today, an estimated 10 to 15 unhappy campers received a rude awakening and an eviction notice.
One cardboard hut had its own mattress and a needlepoint wall hanging. Next to the wall hanging was a written warning that read, “My name is Phil and I own this modest hut and I protect it with a knife.”
Another homeless camper could be seen searching for her pet cat before leaving the scene.
“I’m probably going to find a place, with my wife, I'll find someplace,” said Bruce Wattson. “I’ll crash in a doorstep or something. It’s my wife I'm worried about, not me.”
“To see the homeless, it was devastating. I’m sorry that these people are like this. I’m sorry for that, but it’s not my problem. I feel that people should be able to handle their own situation. There’s too many entities out there to get help,” said Carey Camarata.
Workers with the South Bend Department of Code Enforcement brought equipment on scene to remove the debris.
“From the trash, the feces, they found syringes and just the uncleanliness of people living out in this area,” said South Bend Common Councilman Derek Dieter, (D) At-large. “This type of conduct is not acceptable. This is not acceptable for South Bend, it’s not acceptable for the owners, and it's really dangerous for these people just to be putting up a tent, or putting up a shack or cardboard box and staying out here.”
Dieter uses the business in question for book storage in connection with his Get Booked program aimed at improving the literacy skills of school children.
The councilman took the initiative to tell the campers that they must vacate the premises.