CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - City workers started re-located the remaining homeless living in Tent City Monday, a five-day moving process that's set to meet the city's deadline to clear the area by April 9.
The homeless individuals living at the encampment on Meeting St. under the I-26 overpass are being offered spots at the now opened Housing Transition Center where they'll be given a bed, personal care items, daily meals and CARTA bus transportation.
The center is operating out of Charleston County's work camp facility on Leeds Avenue in North Charleston; it's typically used as a warming shelter during freezing temperatures.
"The housing transition center is a vital interim solution," Anthony Haro, exec. dir. for the Lowcountry Homeless Coalition, said. "We're grateful to have this
option available, but it really is about housing. That's what the solution is."
115 people were living in Tent City in February. As of last week, only 43 remained.
City of Charleston Police Chief Gregory Mullen said many people moved over the weekend; the transition center now expects approximately 30 people from Tent City to stay at the North Charleston transition center.
They'll be moved in a 5-phase process, according to Chief Mullen.
According to the chief, the city's agreement with Charleston County allows for use of the Leeds Ave. facility for 60 days starting April 1 for $1.
Chief Mullen said the city will also pay for utilities and maintenance.
"We're going to make sure in the next 60 days we find as many people permanent housing as possible," Chief Mullen said. "This is not something where we're going to take people from one location to another and just dump them in here for 60 days. We think this is going to be a good opportunity for all of these individuals to get services they may not have been getting downtown and at the same time, be more self-sufficient."
The Lowcountry Homeless Coalition will help residents with support services, including employment, legal assistance and permanent housing.
Both Haro and Chief Mullen are hopeful that housing can be found over the next two months for those in need but a long term solution must be sought.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we need to keep working hard on this," Chief Mullen said.
For Haro, this is a "really potent time for Charleston….because is still really on everybody's minds."
But he said that ultimately, more government support is needed.
"State funding, county, city…to really make sure we don't have an encampment again," Haro said. "And it's possible."