Tecklenburg on Tent City: 'Today is the opening of opportunity'

VIDEO: Tecklenburg on Tent City: 'Today is the opening of opportunity'

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Tent City is no longer open for residence.

Friday all of the tents and trash were removed from the camp underneath I-26 along Meeting Street.

City officials and community partners have been working for the last ten weeks to relocate those people who lived there.

The more than 115 residents and their tents have all been offered shelter, permanent housing or transitional housing.

"What we're here to celebrate today is not the closing of tent city," said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg at a news conference Friday. "What we celebrate today is the opening of opportunity."

Mayor Tecklenburg was joined by several community partners as the final cleanup of Tent City was done.

He said now is the opportunity to help others in our community that are in need, and open up the possibility of new relationships, like those volunteers who stepped up over the last few weeks.

"Just out of their compassion, and caring for their fellow human beings, stepped forward and put forth so much effort," Tecklenburg said.

City crews cleared out the area of what was left of the former Tent City. Among the crew, two men who used to live there.

"It's bittersweet," said Steven Brown, who lived there for a year. "I'm glad to see it cleaned up, because it got really trashy. I'm glad to be a part of the cleanup."

The Mayor said the city has temporarily employed ten people who used to live at the site. One said he's grateful for the opportunity.

"It was so trashy through here, that's why I wanted the job working for the city of Charleston," said Scott Thomas, who lived at the camp for three months. "I got to the point where I just couldn't take it anymore."

"There are some great success stories of individuals who have not only relocated to an apartment or home, they've gotten employment," Tecklenburg said. "The first month's rent is all we're going to have to help them cover because they [have] a job now and are able to pay their own rent."

It may not be easy though.

Tecklenburg said the next step is to make more resources available for lower income families. That includes more affordable housing which he said there's already a blueprint for.

"This is the beginning of the process, not the end," Tecklenburg said. "We will continue to work with our partners to find long-term solutions to the problem of homelessness in our community."

To help get these folks back on their feet, the Homeless to Hope fund was created to raise money to help get them started.

As of April 8, the fund has raised $77,000 as part of the city wide effort.

Half of that money was used to pay for people's first month's rent, security deposits, and even bus tickets for those who wanted to go back home.

The city has not yet decided if it will close that fund in the future.

The city has entered into an agreement with Charleston County to use the existing Work Camp facility on Leeds Avenue as a temporary transitional housing center.

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