Cape Gazette

Tent city residents leaving

County denies involvement; others say property owner was pressured
By Melissa Steele | Apr 01, 2014
Photo by: Melissa Steele Residents are preparing to leave a tent city off of Route 1.

The future of a tent city that has been home to about a dozen homeless residents is in jeopardy - some have lived in the camp off Route 1 near Midway Presbyterian Church for nearly two years.

Delaware State Police Cpl. Matthew Blakeman, who has checked on the residents over the past two years, said he is helping make arrangements to move the residents off the property by Saturday, April 5.

“I was contacted by the troop that the landowner sent a letter saying he wanted everyone off his property because he received a letter stating he was in violation of county code,” Blakeman said.

Blakeman said he has talked to the tent-city residents, and they understand the situation. Blakeman said volunteers have lined up a storage unit to hold their belongings, and there will be transportation to take them off the site.

“I feel horrible for those guys,” he said. “I was down there for an hour today talking to them about relocating. We're trying to do this as compassionately as possible.”

The news came as a shock to Nan Ruhl and others who have volunteered for the area homeless shelter. “A lot of people are very concerned about them,” she said.

Shelter volunteer Marcia Dean said she heard Sussex County government put pressure on the property owner to tear down the tents.

County spokesman Chip Guy said the county is not involved.

“We're not involved in this. I have no idea where this is coming from,” Guy said.

Guy said the county has jurisdiction over land-use issues, but the county has not moved to remove residents from the site. He said any issue with the tent city is between the residents and the property owner.

A search of Sussex County property records lists Robert Hood of Snohomish, Wash., as the property owner. Hood could not be reached for comment.

Homeless people have been living in tents covered with tarps for the past two years on a parcel off Route 1 behind Midway Presbyterian Church. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
A group of homeless people will have to relocate from this make-shift campground. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
The homeless people – who refer to themselves as campers – are still drying out from last weekend's heavy rain. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
A campstove has been used by the group to cook meals when area soup kitchens are not open. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
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