The last resident of the homeless encampment known as Tent City climbed aboard a bus Friday, leaving an empty space under the Interstate 26 overpass where more than 100 people had lived just a few months ago.
A backhoe loader scooped up the abandoned tents and piles of debris and dumped them into a truck that hauled them away. Gloved workers picked up trash and deposited it into plastic bags.
By the time Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg held a 1:30 press conference, the area was cleared and cleaned.
Tecklenburg thanked all of the community members and groups that helped the city clear the encampment. “What we are here to celebrate is not the closing of Tent City,” Tecklenburg said, “but the opening of a new era of collaboration in our community.”
Some residents of the encampment found homes, he said, though he didn’t have an exact number. Twenty-nine people are now living in the warming shelter on Leeds Avenue in North Charleston. The city made arrangements to house the remaining Tent City residents there for up to 60 days while they help them find permanent housing.
And the city gave 10 people who were not from Charleston money to get home. That money came from the Homeless to Hope Fund, which is comprised of donations.
The fund brought in $77,000, said Steve Skardon from the Palmetto Project, the group that is managing the fund. About half of it has been committed.
Deputy Police Chief Tony Elder said the move was completed calmly and peacefully, and there were no arrests.
From now on, if people pitch tents there they will be informed that they are on property that belongs to the state Department of Transportation and they have 48 hours to move, Elder said.
If someone refuses to leave, he or she first will get a citation. Then they ultimately could be arrested.
But, Elder said, officers will work with new people who pitch tents much like they did with Tent City residents. “I think we’ve demonstrated that we don’t have to get to that point.”
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.