Longstanding Jefferson bridge camp cleared out

Oct 17 2019
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Longstanding Jefferson bridge camp cleared out

By: Hannah Herner

A longstanding camp located 2nd Avenue and Jefferson Street has been broken up. 


A week ago Thursday, those living there were told by police that they had one week to move away. That one week expired on Oct. 17. Residents said police cited repeated calls because of fights at the camp as the reason for enforcing the criminal trespassing law. 


A woman named Dorothy, who’s lived in the camp for five months, said she didn’t know what she was going to do when she first heard she had to leave the camp. She’s on the waitlist to get into housing, and has a case manager from Park Center, a mental illness and addiction recovery community. But in the meantime, she’ll be camping elsewhere.


On Wednesday she cried, and on Thursday she got up in the morning and moved all of her belongings herself.


“If they’re going to run you off from one place, they’re going to run you off of all of them,” Dorothy says. “One policeman said, ‘everybody’s moving to Madison.’ I’m not going to Madison.”

Longtime encampment resident Sherry says just about every year there is an effort to get people cleared out, but they always come back to the spot under the bridge. The busting up of encampments often causes people to shuffle from one place to another. She is currently arranging for a Section 8 housing voucher but, like Dorothy, will be camping in the meantime. She says she has reason not to go to area shelters. 


“I’m going to find a home,” Sherry says. “But I have to stay out here in the streets until I get the place. That’s something these people who breathe money don’t understand. I’m not going to go and breathe someone else’s air in these shelters. I’m going to stay out here until I get my own life. I’m not going to change for nobody.”  


Moving people away from the camp will cause them to be further from necessary resources. Sanctuary Homeless Refuge has been serving meals and other necessities to the homeless population under Jefferson Street bridge for 14 years. They upped services just a couple of months ago from serving meals a few days a week to seven days a week. The organization does not plan to change its outreach location at this time. 


“We were told that we could still do services here, it’s just that now everybody has to walk here. When it starts getting really cold, that’s not ideal,” says volunteer Randy Bowen.



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