NEW CASTLE —
LIVING BY RULES
Sansone has lived at Tent City off and on for two years. He was recently arrested for trespassing at the Cascade Galleria. The downtown mall has a list of people who don’t belong there, and it includes Tent City dwellers.
New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem sends his officers to patrol Tent City regularly, but typically the cops leave the squatters alone there if they’re not bothering anyone.
If the police would chase them out, Salem explained, they would disperse throughout the city, sleeping in stairwells, in the city parking garage or on building steps.
“There, they are isolated and not on our streets downtown.”
When there’s trouble in the woods, it’s typically caused by other people who go there to party, he is told.
Denson Quinn, 48, has been at Tent City for about eight months.
“A lot of times, people back here get blamed for things, but it’s people who got homes who come back here and come from a bar,” the transient said.
He camps with Sansone and Andrew Rogenski, 47, who ended up there from Youngstown.
The women’s tents are pitched in a different area of the grounds.
Quinn tried staying at the City Rescue Mission and at a Human Services Center house, but it didn’t work out.
“It’s hard to follow the rules and be in at a certain time,” he said. “It just got where I couldn’t handle it anymore.”
He’s been on the move for most of his adult life. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2006, he moved from city to city before ending up in New Castle two years ago.
“I went to the bus stop and got me the next bus.”
His housing options quickly diminished.
“They won’t rent me an apartment anywhere, because you have to sign a two-year lease,” he said.
Most landlords also want a security deposit and the first month’s rent, an amount a homeless person cannot afford.
Quinn has come to rely on local agencies and shelters as his lifeline for food and basic amenities — Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, the City Rescue Mission and Patches Place, a mental health support agency.
A youth minister from Church of Genesis in Mahoningtown routinely visits to take the campers to church. He also does their laundry and takes them bottled water.
Other people leave food at the entrance, but Patches Place representatives said they prefer all donations go through them, for safety reasons.
“Since when did Tent City become a proper noun?” asked Sandra Hause, executive director of Patches Place.
An independent program through the agency helps homeless people acquire Social Security and other compensation and meet other needs to try to find them permanent shelter.
Patches Place, together with Catholic Charities, reaches out to Tent City residents by giving them tents, blankets, clothing, canned food and even fishing gear, and allowing them to shower, do laundry and have a hot breakfast at its North Mill Street drop-in center.
Quinn, in turn, volunteers at the Mill Street center in the mornings and afternoons, helping to cook, clean and do odd jobs.
“I help them because they help me,” he said.