WASHINGTON — Facing orders to leave, people living in a homeless encampment in D.C. say they plan to stay put.
“We never trash anything here and we make sure everything stays clean,” says Tee, a woman who lives there and declined to give her last name.
“We’re hoping something can be worked out.”
Members of the tent community near Rock Creek Parkway and Virginia Avenue were given final notice Monday to vacate the area.
“These campsites are illegal,” said Brenda Donald, the city’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “They’re also unsafe and unsanitary.”
Jabar Rashard Conquest, a man who lives at the homeless camp, told WTOP Tuesday that he is confident the two sides can come to an understanding.
“As long as we keep the area clean, things should be alright,” Conquest said.
D.C. officials have been ramping up efforts to clear everyone out.
The city’s goal had been to get the dozens of people living at the camp removed by Tuesday.
“I told them I don’t want to go to a shelter,” said Clyde Burgit, who arrived at the camp weeks ago with companion Helen Dick, two dogs and three bicycles.
“I don’t do shelters, there’s too much drama, too [many] fights,” said Dick on Monday.
Burgit and Dick are among a couple dozen members of the tent community who received a personal visit and “final notice” Monday from a District deputy mayor telling them they have to go.
Donald said city officials are identifying the needs of homeless people and providing them with support and services that might help them get jobs and permanent housing.
On Monday, behavioral health specialists and shelter hotline employees spoke with tent residents as six police officers looked on.
Marina Streznewski, president of the Foggy Bottom Association, says the camp should be allowed to remain.
“There’s the law and then there’s right and wrong, and sometimes they aren’t in harmony,” Streznewski said. “Unless you find permanent housing for people, they’re going to come back.”
Citing examples of assaults and uncleanliness in shelters, Streznewski said she understands why some people prefer living in a tent: “It may be cold out here, but it’s safer.”
Streznewski says many of the people camping at the Rock Creek Parkway Virginia Avenue site came from a homeless encampment on nearby 26th Street that was cleared out in August.
There are roughly 7,300 homeless people in D.C. this year. This is an almost 6 percent decrease from last year’s number of almost 7,750, according to a report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
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