Another section of Charleston’s so-called Tent City is being vacated as homeless advocates scramble to figure out where to put the rest of the campers.
Residents of about eight tents at Meeting and Lee streets were packing up Monday morning. They got a notice from the city saying the area, which is owned by the Department of Transportation, will be cleared at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The notice included several agencies they could turn to for help.
About 100 people have set up tents over the last year or so on Meeting Street near Interstate 26 and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. City officials announced last week that the encampment would be dismantled over the next two months.
David Madan, 57, originally from Minneapolis, said he has had his fill of living in a tent. He’s moving into One80 Place, the city’s homeless shelter.
“They said I could stay out here and be cold or I could be in there where it’s warm,” he said.
Scott Thomas, 47, a former cook from the Chicago area, was moving under another overpass outside of Tent City. He said he doesn’t blame the city for wanting to clean up the area but wonders why officials don’t convert some of the abandoned houses in the neighborhood into residences for the homeless.
“It’s an eyesore, all this trash everywhere,” he said of the encampment. “There’s a lot of houses over here that could be fixed up.”
When asked why he doesn’t move into One80 Place, he said it’s because the shelter is full.
Sometimes that’s an excuse for those who don’t want to abide by the shelter’s rules, Chief Executive Officer Stacy Denaux said Monday, but in this case it happens to be true.
“We were already full before we started on the encampment,” she said.
Shelter staff have been working to open up spaces, but that depends on finding residents other places to stay, she said. Homeless advocates and elected officials have also been brainstorming to come up with alternatives. A new coalition called the Lowcountry Task Force to Combat Homelessness held its first meeting Monday in Charleston County Council chambers.
The cleanup of Tent City started Friday, when several tents and a large pile of trash by the bridge at Meeting and Huger streets were removed. One resident was moved into an apartment provided by Family Services while the others abandoned camp.
At least 16 Tent City residents moved into One80 Place last week. Family Services lined up apartments for seven residents who qualify as chronically homeless and disabled.
Also as part of the cleanup, DOT crews leveled a mountain bike trail that had been built under the Ravenel Bridge without permission. Some of the participants were lamenting the loss in a private social media group this weekend. The person behind the trail didn’t want to talk on the record because of liability concerns but said he hoped the city might consider an official urban bike trail.
Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.