New Castle News

February 6, 2013

Tent City’s homeless get marching orders

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A few dwindling dwellers at the Tent City homeless encampment downtown must vacate the area by Friday.

The city police chief gave that deadline following a meeting a month ago with the property owners, the mayor and representatives of Patches Place and the City Rescue Mission.

The edict came down after the property’s owners, The Ellwood Group, deemed the homeless settlement a liability, New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem explained Tuesday.

Company officials declined to comment Tuesday.

For years the encampment, located inside a fenced-in lot off the Columbus Innerbelt, had been ignored by principals of The Ellwood Group.

But when a Dec. 7 fire, thought to be arson, destroyed the homeless people’s belongings, it snagged the company’s attention.

“They came to us and wanted them off the property, but they wanted to come up with a reasonable solution for them and give them time to get out,” Salem explained Tuesday. “That being said, we gave them time and spoke to different agencies, including Patches Place and the City Rescue Mission, to come up with solutions.”

“The company (last week) wanted to know what progress we’re making,” Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo said Tuesday. “I told them we were going to wait one week.”

Salem then went to Tent City and Patches Place last Friday and told them they have until Friday to leave the property.

“After that, they will be charged with trespassing,” he said.

Mastrangelo said he doesn’t know of any suitable place for the outdoor homeless in the city.

“We always said as long as the owner of the property didn’t complain, we wouldn’t bother them,” he said. “We thought that to keep them in one area, it was easy to get to if something would happen.

“The property owners didn’t say anything, but after the fire, that’s when one of the company representatives wanted to talk,” the mayor said.

“They’re concerned about the liability, and as long as they say they want them off the property, we have to abide by that.”

The Ellwood Group people were “very accommodating about giving them time, and were worried about where they were going to stay,” Salem explained. “They didn’t just want to throw them off, so initially we gave them a month. This Friday they’ll be off the property.”

Angela Hagberg of Patches Place, who has been collecting donations and providing help for the homeless group, is actively looking for a place for the remaining few to relocate.

One couple is moving to a shelter, she said, and two or three men are still outdoors at Tent City. She would like to see them find another camping area that possibly has bathroom facilities.

She is asking that anyone who may have a suitable property contact her at Patches Place at (724) 657-0226. She also is looking for a donation of a portable toilet.

The mayor and police chief have indicated they do not want homeless people staying in the downtown, Hagberg said.

“Even if we move them to another property, they’d be trespassing unless they have someone’s permission,” she said. “We are asking someone to donate a house or land or something.”

Despite the winter snow and low temperatures, the Tent City homeless have stayed and managed to keep warm under blankets at night, but occasionally seek a shelter, she said.

However, a problem with staying at local shelters or the Rescue Mission is that the Tent City residents don’t want to abide by any curfews or no-alcohol rules.

The local homeless have dwindled from 15 people last summer to the few staying at Tent City lately, but Hagberg sees that number increasing again when the weather gets warmer.

“There are always going to be homeless, always,” she said. “They need something soon.”