Acts Community helps tent city dwellers pack up

There are several in Amarillo and now those tent cities that were once thriving are being forced to pick up and move of the land.

That's because the land belongs to the Texas Department of Transportation and it said the tent city dwellers were "trespassing". They are being required to leave by the morning of June 8.

Some living in the tent city under the overpass at Pierce and 1st Street have been there for two years while others only a few months. One woman, calling herself the spokesperson for the group, said they all had various reasons for being in that situation.

"Some have health reasons, they don't have enough money to pay for housing and their medications and some are here because they don't have any sort of income, can't get a job," said Shiryl Edwards. "I'm on social security disability."

Currently, there are 18 agencies in Amarillo that provide help to the homeless and according to a report by the Amarillo Homeless Management Information System there are about 134 available bed spaces in various shelters in town. That often leads some people to wonder, why these tent city residents aren't taking advantage of them. Shiryl said it's because even places like the Salvation Army have limits.

"You're entitled to like 60 days a year," she explained. "It's just a temporary fix, too. It's safe here for us because we're in numbers and we have each others backs. We're a family."

Shiryl said they survive by eating meals provided by groups like the Faith City Mission as well as off the donations of people in the community that bring by goods like water, ice, blankets and sometimes even money.

Even so, if they weren't off the land by Friday they risked being arrested. They were only given a short three/four day time period to pick up and move all of their things that Acts Community in Amarillo felt was almost impossible for anyone to achieve without help.

"Who could move in such a short time?" asked Acts Community executive director Chad Conner. "And throw on top of that that there's no car, no phone and no place to legally go."

That's why Acts donated hundreds of moving boxes and a storage unit to the folks at the tent city for one month until they found a place to live.

"They don't have much and to have to lose all they do have just didn't seem fair to some of them," added Conner.

Conner said it may not be a permanent fix for the real problem of homelessness, but it was an easy, short-term solution to some of these people's problems.

"We don't think that we're finding a long term solution here," he said. "It's really, we're trying to keep them out of jail because it doesn't do any of us any good for them to end up in jail, get out in three days and be in the exact same situation they were in before they went in. They wanted to comply, they just didn't know how to. They didn't have the resources to get it done."


marillo City Commissioners did pass an ordinance Tuesday to prohibit camping on government property, but that won't take effect until July 27. Tent city is being evacuated now because of the demands from TxDOT.