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Church working to purchase land for displaced 'Tent City' residents

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Tent city residents were rounded up Monday night Tent city residents were rounded up Monday night

The tent city in the shadow of the Beckham Avenue Bridge is now vacant. Homeless who were living there have all been asked to leave by Union Pacific, who owns the property. Tyler Police kept a watchful eye as volunteers helped clear everyone out.

Many of us have driven over the Beckham Avenue Bridge in Tyler with no idea of what lies beneath. As of January 28, only remnants of a makeshift neighborhood remain. They’re called homeless, but they still need a place to stay, although now it won’t be tolerated here on the Union Pacific right-of-way.

John Walton, Associate Pastor of Church on the Bridge and other volunteers are trying to help.

“Right now we’re trying to help take care of the situation temporarily, but we’re also looking for a long term solution. How can we take all out homeless people who are currently homeless right now and reintegrate them with a structured environment? That’s one thing we’re trying to do is to create Camp PS-91 in a larger scale so we can have a structured environment,” Walton said.

Camp PS-91 will be a safe and healthy alternative to living in the streets for the homeless but not right now. There are talks taking place with the property owner about a land purchase.

The Tyler Police Department will show a strong presence to make sure there is no trespassing or tent-pitching anywhere around the bridge until utilities are in place. Tim Harris has been helping out the group of homeless, and is making sure everything is handled legally.

“At this point we’re not even going to attempt to move here until we can close the deal. I have people and resources in place that will be able to make what we need to have happen, happen so that we can be in compliance,” Harris told a Tyler police officer.

But with temperatures forecast in the teens, the homeless have immediate needs.

“I spoke with a supervisor at Tyler Steel, they own some property out in the woods and they have given permission to temporarily camp there until we can close the deal on this land,” Harris revealed.

The Beckham Avenue Bridge homeless have a temporary solution, but this story is far from over.

Union Pacific Spokesperson Rachel Espinosa said the homeless living near the tracks were warned months ago that they needed to be out by the first of the year. They had given them an extra month to find somewhere else to stay.

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