Longtime Homeless Camp in Rockville
ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA) -- For the last seven years, a homeless encampment has been moving around the woods. Now, the people that live there are afraid they are about to be evicted.
There's a steep, dirt trail surrounded by weeds and brush. On the hill there is a community of homeless people. Many have lived there for years.
Amber said she has lived there since May with her boyfriend, but their relationship turned violent. After he beat her, she filed paperwork with the county. The police served a warrant for his arrest and thus the camp was exposed.
People in the camp say they were told to vacate the area by 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Amber said she feels guilty, but she also feared for her safety. As a domestic violence victim, she is dealing with police trying to help her. But because she is homeless, other officers have to try to force her and her neighbors out of the camp.
Carmen has lived in this general area for seven years. She's got her most important belongings packed.
The two women are caring for Amber's two dogs. They are on leashes and stay with Amber in her tent at night. As part of the eviction process, Animal Control officers tried to take the dogs Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm not letting them take my dogs," she said with tears in her eyes.
The dogs are her family. She said she is unwilling to give them up, and therefore cannot stay in a shelter.
Montgomery County Police officers accompanied Animal Control and convinced Amber to go with them and talk about options. She said she is glad she did. Because of the domestic violence case, she said the county is placing her in long-term housing. She will be separated from her dogs temporarily, but will get them back.
Now, her concerns are for her neighbors at the camp.
John Mendez with Bethesda Cares, an outreach organization that works with the homeless, said the only way to help homeless people is getting them a place to stay permanently.
He said shelters don't work for people like Carmen. They need their own space.
Police will be back Thursday morning with an inspector from the EPA and representatives from the County's Homeless Outreach program. They'll condemn the property and give people five to seven days to pack up and leave.
Mendez said it's a temporary solution. These people may stay a shelter temporarily, but then have to find another place to stay on the streets.
The encampments may continue to grow. According "A Regional Portrait of Homelessness: 2011 Count of Homeless Persons in Metropolitan Washington, DC," Montgomery County's chronically homeless population has increased 91 percent since last year.