COLUMBUS, Ohio – The people camping in Heer Park may not have had a home, but they had built a home and a community.
Tony Holbrook always starts his day with a smile. From his attitude, you might not guess that he has been homeless for more than ten years, after suffering health problems and job loss.
“The first week was horrible, but we got by and every week after that we’ve survived pretty well here,” Holbrook said.
He faced hot summers and harsh winters, but his religion kept him hopeful through it all. Whenever his faith is questioned, he says he experiences a “street miracle”.
“I asked him (God) if I was doing it right and if he could take care of our hunger and I swear not even 3 or 4 minutes after praying a fifty dollar bill blew on my toe” , said Holbrook.
Holbrook is now hoping for another street miracle. The City of Columbus issued an eviction notice to the Heer Park camp after receiving too many complaints from nearby neighborhoods and businesses. All non-city property was to be evacuated or removed by June 20.
In response, Holbrook and Here to Serve attorney Emily Meyers packed up and moved people’s belongings to another camp. They went to the store to buy new items for those who wanted to move.
Price, color and heat retention are all factors in finding a good tent, which is vital for the homeless population. Emily said it was her humanitarian duty to help those in need.
“Help them find a place that will be safe and have a community for them,” Meyers said. “I love them, I love my community, that’s what keeps me here.”
While the eviction was served weeks ago and the city has been communicating with those in Heer Park since last July, people still feel like they don’t know where to go.
“People are wondering, people are understandably upset, people are tired of the same thing, none of these camps are new,” Meyers said.
On Tuesday morning, the Columbus Police Department and the Department of Development met with residents of Heer Park with crane bulldozers, to collect any non-city objects.
The Department of Development said the city informed people that the camp was not a permanent solution and provided resources through Maryhaven, Mount Carmel and Equitas. Sheldon Goodrum, from the Department of Development, said they hoped to see progress.
“If we feel like there’s no more progress and they’re not taking advantage of the shelters, that’s when we decide to start the remediation process,” Goodrum said.
Several people in the camp said that while these nonprofits may seem like an immediate solution, they struggle to be placed in a bed or shelter. Holbrook said he knew the future was unknown, but at the end of the day he just wanted a place to call home.
“I always struggle with things, but God is there for me,” Holbrook said. “Every day I see miracles in the street.”
Columbus police said they would patrol the area. The city hasn’t released plans for the property, but Goodrum said the city plans to roll out a housing strategy to focus on increasing the homeless population in Columbus, using bailout dollars. American.
“It boils down to four key points,” Goodrum said. “Build, preserve, invest and include. In this framework that the mayor has developed, we believe that it will solve the housing crisis in which we find ourselves.
The hope is that progress will be made in these communities.