'Tent City' cleanup underway in downtown Charleston

VIDEO: 'Tent City' cleanup underway in downtown Charleston

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Crews from the South Carolina Department of Transportation began cleaning up parts of the homeless encampment that has come to be known as "Tent City."

"I don't know that anybody should be surprised about it because it's happened to other camp sites before," Tent City resident Kimberly Grosiak said. "It's
becoming a real huge, huge tent city."

SCDOT crews started a debris sweep of Tent City, which is an area along Meeting Street under the I-26 overpass, on Friday, and say it is the first of many to come. The cleanup is part of Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg's 10-point plan to get Tent City's homeless more help.

Lathronia Johnson was heading home as the cleanup was taking place.

"I just wish there was better housing, more shelters," Johnson said. "I've known eventually they'd want to clean up the area. I knew it was going to come but I feel bad because they may really not have a place at all."

The mayor's plan includes restoring the area under the interstate overpass to normalcy in about 30 to 60 days and assisting Tent City's homeless with supportive services, like shelter and permanent housing.

"I just want them to be in a place," Johnson said. "It's too cold to be out on the ground like that. I feel sorry for them."

Grosiak said not all Tent City residents want permanent housing but it's the goal for many.

"I can't say enough about the overflow of help that's come out here, it's a wonderful, wonderful gesture," Grosiak said. "But, we don't need to be more comfortable out here. we need to be inside and that's when the help should come in."

Grosiak hasn't heard about a move date yet, but she's watching the bulldozing across Meeting Street.

"People are afraid because they don't know where they're gonna go," Grosiak said. "No one's got information about where we're going to be moved to. I've been outside for five years and it's been moved so many times that no one knows where they're gonna go so they can access the resources that are available."

Cleanup efforts will continue next week. The encampment area around Lee and Meeting streets will be cleared starting Monday. People currently living in that location will be offered immediate shelter by One80 Place. There are also plans to clear tent areas on the East side of Meeting Street; those residents will be offered shelter by One80 Place as well.

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