NEW HAVEN, Conn. — City officials are enforcing an eviction order at a homeless encampment in New Haven on Thursday morning, removing belongings from what's called "Tent City."
Now, there's a heavy police presence at West River Memorial Park, where Tent City is, and there was one arrest.
Starting around 7 a.m., Housing and Homeless Services, as well as the local police and city workers, went tent to tent.
The city issued an eviction order for the residents last week, they were supposed to pack up and leave by 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Around eight people lived at the encampment; all were offered beds at the Columbus house.
There were three Tent City residents and one local activist on the premises Thursday morning. All three of them agreed to leave voluntarily and took their belongings. Two of them are getting storage options.
However, the activist with Catholic Amistad, identified as Mark Colville, refused to leave and ended up being arrested for trespassing.
"In large part, my decision to do that was based on a real effort or the desire to make this argument in court because I believe I believe that the law is clearly on the side of poor people," he told FOX61 News on Thursday.
The eviction notice was issued Friday, March 10, and residents were told to leave the encampment by 1 p.m. Wednesday. It was their second notice coming from the city of New Haven in a matter of weeks after officials said they found health and safety violations.
Some residents left that afternoon, others chose to stay.
"I don't understand why that's the response. To me, that seems like a full-on, law enforcement, non-compassionate response to people, mayor," said Bill Brommage, with Unhouse Activists Community Team, on Thursday. "I'm heartbroken. My state of mind is heartbroken. And also, I'm worried about people being safe."
Mayor Justin Elicker said that there is no "perfect solution" to address this issue.
"This is a very very challenging issue. But staying here is not acceptable, it is not safe," he said. "There was a structure built, a shower that was constructed. There's a river right behind here. There's human waste on-site. There are propane tanks and heating in the tents. The tents are very flammable."
Colville said he has offered "Tent City" neighbors to move to his backyard at the Amistad House, just down the road.
"And if they come for this place, they can take the whole house, okay, because we're going to do this as long as I live here," he added.
Suki Godek, a former "Tent City" resident took Colville up on his offer.
"The only thing I have is my husband. We just have each other so, like, we didn't want to go and be separated. So we chose to come here together and basically start from scratch," she said. "It gives you an appreciation for what you do have and what's important in life when you've had everything, and then nothing and you see that difference."
Brooke Griffin is a reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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