SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Using heavy equipment, Texas Department of Transportation crews and the City of San Antonio on Wednesday knocked down a homeless encampment that looked like a tent city under IH 37 at Brooklyn Avenue.
Various agencies that assist the homeless helped people pack their belongings and move out as TxDOT dump trucks and front end loaders moved in. As the area was being cleared, a baby was found.
“We actually found a newborn baby that was kind of hidden in a tent,” said Dawn White-Fosdick, President and CEO of Christian Assistance Ministry (CAM). “The mother was there with the baby and we don’t know if she had the baby on the street.”
CAM provided the baby with diapers and other necessities and contacted Child Protective Services.
“They were in a tent, but it’s not a healthy environment and it was cold,” said White-Fosdick.
CAM provides the homeless with food, clothing, showers, and mailboxes. Wednesday, they also provided duffle bags to help them move their belongings.
“We wanted to make the move as painless as possible,” said White-Fosdick.
Roland Martinez with the city’s Department of Human Services says the homeless service providers have been visiting the camp for weeks, warning people that the area would be cleared out. They also distributed information about available shelters.
“This camp was scheduled for abatement by the Texas Department of Transportation. There were concerns about the health and safety of the homeless individuals and reported criminal activity at this location,” said Martinez.
There have been recent shootings and a fire at the encampment just a few blocks north of the Tower of the Americas. Lily Ryan, who’s been staying there for a few weeks, says life on the streets is scary.
“I think we all feel afraid to be out on the streets, but when you have no choice, what are you going to do?” Ryan said as she sat across the street and watched crews clear the area.
She salvaged what she could, but others who were gone when the heavy equipment moved in would return to find that their tents, blankets, chairs and other belongings were hauled off.
“I’ll have to relocate my stuff, but I have no clue what I’m going to do next,” Ryan told KTSA News.
Some of the homeless were waiting for police and the cleanup crews to leave the scene in hopes of moving their things back under the highway. Ken Mayhew from Pennsylvania has been living there since November.
“I have never considered myself homeless. Anywhere you can put your head down and sleep, that’s your home,” he said.
Martinez says the health and safety of San Antonio residents is of utmost importance and they have found shelter for the homeless individuals who were forced out of the camp Wednesday, but many, like Mayhew, prefer to live on the streets.
Christopher Perez said the area under IH 37 at Brooklyn Avenue was like home. By day, he works odd jobs.
“I do lawns, I pick up trash, I also do demolition, I do a little bit of electrical work,” said Perez.
And by night, he enjoyed spending time with the friends he made under the highway.
“Some of us are singers, rappers, country singers. Some of us play instruments like flute and guitars and we’re building a good, strong community as homeless people out here,” Perez said.
But TxDOT and city officials say the encampment kept growing and getting more dangerous. As part of the city’s Recovery and Resiliency program, the Department of Human Services is working with several homeless service providers to find places for those who were displaced Wednesday. That includes Haven for Hope, Centro San Antonio, Christian Assistance Ministry, Thrive Youth Center and SAMMinstries.