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Ontario thinning Tent City population

March 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of people who have called a tent city in Ontario home may have to leave Monday. The residents are going to have to prove they are actually from Ontario if they want to stay.Several residents told Eyewitness News that half of the people living in Tent City have already left because they know they will not be allowed to stay.

Click in the Eyewitness News story window above to watch the accompanying video to this story.

About 50 to 60 additional residents are expected to be evicted Monday because the city said those that did not originally live in Ontario when they became homeless cannot stay.

Click in the Eyewitness News story window above to watch Leanne Suter's report from the scene, including an interview with a Tent City resident.

The city originally set up the area last summer to help its homeless population, but when word spread about Tent City, the area was crowded with about 400 people, many of them from other cities, counties, even states.

The city said it cannot handle that many people, and many must go. About 15 people had originally moved in, apparently all residents of Ontario.

"I have no idea where I'm going. This is where I'm supposed to stay," said Debbie, a homeless woman.

"There was no crime. Everybody looked out for each other. You know, it was like family," said Andria Lawson, another homeless woman. "Time to move on," Lawson said.

City officials and police visited the camp last week and began going through the areas, verifying who lived in Ontario originally and who was from other areas, designating those who could stay and those who had to go.

"We've always intended that this was for Ontario's homeless population, and that we help that population get connected to county services, get connected to nonprofits and churches, hopefully get pathways out of homelessness if possible," said Brent Shultz of the city's housing department.

On Monday morning, bulldozers began removing leftover debris, and workers began clearing a large dirt lot to create what the city is calling a fenced in temporary homeless service area that will have a fire pit, water and portable restrooms.

The service area will cost the city about $100,000. City officials said they know this is not a long-term solution and are working with the county. City officials hope to have center cleaned up and improvements done in the next couple of weeks.

In the mean time, residents said they still plan on fighting the issue in hopes of allowing everyone to stay.

"We are asking the city and they county to give us a reprieve for 30 days because this has been very rushed. Homeless people only found out about it here about a week or so ago," said David Busch, Tent City resident.

Many residents said they feel this is a county issue and the county should step up and help out Ontario. While they're very appreciative of what the city has done in terms of trying to deal with the issue, they said this obviously shows there are a lot of people out there that need help.

 

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