- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The residents of La Plata’s “tent city,” next to Walmart, now face an even more uncertain future as the threat of eviction has been presented.
Following a complaint on June 26 from someone whom police believe is the landowner of the property on which the tent camp is situated, Maj. Rob Cleaveland of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office said officers visited the premises to notify the residents of what may be coming down the pike.
Because the CCSO could not verify land ownership, Cleaveland said that no official action would be taken until ownership of the land has been verified. Attempts by telephone to contact the landowner of the property as listed in online Maryland tax records were unsuccessful. A reporter visited an address listed for the landowner, but no one answered the door at the home.
If land ownership is verified, CCSO spokeswoman Diane Richardson said, then the path becomes more clear: the homeless people on the property will be notified that they are trespassing and will be given time to vacate the premises.
Richardson said she didn’t know how much time the law allows before the people must leave the camp. The landowners are then free to post signs designating the area as private property. Currently, no signs of that nature are present on the land.
For those living in the woods, the potential for eviction dredges up uncomfortable thoughts and questions.
“Where do they expect us to go?,” tent city resident Amos Washington said. “I mean, people have told me that I’m not actually homeless because I can stay with my mother, but the most I can stay there is three days before I’m back out. There just aren’t that many options.”
Another tent city resident, Theresa Brooke, was surprised to learn their presence was considered problematic.
“Everybody knows we’re here ... and for years that hasn’t been a problem,” Brooke said. “We all get along back here. Nobody fights. We’re not a problem for anyone.”
Washington and Brooke also both said they are concerned they will not be able to stay in one of the area’s homeless shelters.
Another resident, Vincent “Wise” Walker, also expressed frustration with the services available to them through LifeStyles of Maryland, the organization that does the most to provide the tent city’s residents with assistance.
“They are the main ones who help us out, but still they don’t do much,” Walker said. “People are really only helpful in the winter.”
Walker also addressed the stereotype he felt many might hold regarding the homeless population.
“There is no one simple solution to getting all of us out of here,” Walker said. “For most, I know they’d give their left arm to be anywhere but here. But you can’t deal with one aspect of [the tent city’s residents] and not address them all. The problems overlap, but we’re all in the same boat.”
LifeStyles Executive Director Sandy Washington said that this was the first she had heard of the organization not providing enough aid for the tent city’s residents.
“We help provide them with food, showers, identification if they need it, a place to make phone calls, certification of homelessness ... this is the first I have heard from anyone there that we don’t help enough,” Washington said. “We’ll do everything but provide the housing for them. I don’t know of any organization out there that can say they are able to answer fully the needs of all. We do what we can ... whether we can get there is different.”
As of press time, the tent city’s residents had not been asked to leave.