Police Clear Out Homeless Camps in Hyannis Woods

CCB MEDIA A 66-year-old Harwich native walks out of the woods, as, ahead of her, Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald wheels out her belongings in a shopping cart.

CCB MEDIA
A 66-year-old Harwich native walks out of the woods, as, ahead of her, Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald wheels out her belongings in a shopping cart.

HYANNIS – Stella came out of the woods next to Lopes Field using a walker. Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald walked ahead of her, pushing a shopping cart loaded with Stella’s belongings.

She was one of the homeless people displaced yesterday morning when police working with Barnstable Department of Public Works staff and county jail inmates cleared about a dozen illegal campsites in the woods behind Saint John Paul II High School off Old Colony Road in Hyannis.

As Stella waited for her daughter to load her belongings into a van, she told her story.

“It’s not a place I thought I’d be,” she said of the woods.

She says she grew up in Harwich and is 66 years old. She became homeless on July 1 when the 19th century Harwich home that was owned by her grandparents and then her parents was foreclosed on.

Her mother, Stella said, had gotten a reverse mortgage on the home. But after her mother died, Stella said she could not keep up with the payments.

CCB MEDIA PHOTO A campsite in the woods just steps from the Saint John Paul II High School tennis courts.

CCB MEDIA PHOTO
A campsite in the woods just steps from the Saint John Paul II High School tennis courts.

“I was not able to save it,” she said.

The foreclosure sent both Stella and her daughter to the streets. While Stella was living in a tent in the woods, her daughter was sleeping in a van with a former boyfriend, a native of Plymouth, who is also homeless.

The friend from Plymouth, who declined to give his name, said they have had trouble finding a place to park the van overnight. When they tried to park it at the rest area near exit 7 on Route 6, police told them to move along and suggested they park overnight in a supermarket parking lot.

Stella said she felt safer sleeping in the woods than next to strangers at the NOAH homeless shelter. She said she did not know where she would go next.

Paula Schnepp, coordinator of the Regional Network to Address Homelessness, was helping the police clear out the camps. She advised Stella to go to the nearby Barnstable Housing Authority to put her name on a list for an apartment. The fact that Stella is a senior citizen should give her priority, Schnepp said.

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Used needles strewn on the ground near a campsite in Hyannis.

CCB MEDIA PHOTO
Used needles strewn on the ground near a campsite in Hyannis.

“Tell them, ‘I just got kicked out of my camp and I need housing,’” Schnepp told Stella.

Neither Stella nor her daughter were aware of the housing authority and Schnepp attempted to give them directions to the office, a short walk from where Stella has been camping for two months.

State Representative Brian Mannal was also helping the police with the effort to clean out the camps yesterday. He went on a tour of homeless camps with police last week and wanted to help because he said he knew there would not be enough staff on hand to do the job.

Mannal said he believes there are hundreds of people living in the woods throughout the town of Barnstable.

“It creates a public safety risk particularly when you look around the campsites, you can find used dirty syringes almost everywhere,” he said.

CCB MEDIA NEWS A Bobcat is loaded with trash cleared from homeless camps in the Hyannis woods.

CCB MEDIA NEWS
A Bobcat is loaded with trash cleared from homeless camps in the Hyannis woods.

He pointed out where people were living, used needles strewn around the ground, just steps from the school’s tennis court and fields. One needle was taped to a pine tree, seemingly in reserve.

Most of the homeless had left the area in advance of yesterday morning’s clean-up. Police Chief MacDonald said police had been given the people in the woods two weeks notice to leave the area and take their belongings.

“It’s awful. It’s awful. You’ve seen the conditions of these camps. No one should be living in these camps,” MacDonald said.

But one man had not gotten the message and was in his tent in a clearing on a knoll near the school’s tennis court.

A fire pit area was located steps from the tent. The smell of feces was in the air. Numerous needles littered the ground. Mannal pointed to detritus on the ground—a white plastic lid, an orange cap—that are part of the package that a local needle exchange program gives to addicts as part of a needle exchange kit. Mannal said it appears that the needle exchange program is encouraging addicts.

The man poked his head out of the tent.

Mannal told the man that police would be coming soon to clear out the area. The man lowered his head and hid it under a blanket, so he could not be seen.

By LAURA M. RECKFORD, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

Comments

  1. Mannal is clueless

  2. how sad…

  3. This country has many homeless people and many more with no jobs and the country wants to take in refugees from the Middle East. Sad. Troubling.

  4. Unfortunately if you qualify under refugee status in this country you are eligible for far more benefits than if you are a homeless/unemployed citizen, including housing, subsidies, educational assistance, stipends, food stamps etc. Why? Because not enough of us speak up for the homeless until we are in that position, and then we are discounted.

  5. The State Rep says clean, uninfected needles encourage addiction?… I guess clean bathrooms encourage me to crap – which is what he appears to be full of.

  6. Mybrotherskeeper says:

    I feel so bad people are being treated this way in our community. I wish I had the resourses to do more for them.. esp the old, the sick. Nd the children/teens on our streets. Im makes me very sad. Its how we treat the less fortunate that defines us. We can do better.We have to. Love is god.

  7. Mybrotherskeeper says:

    My spelling is bad. But u get the point people. It takes our community as a whole to change this problem. I dont have the answers, but I think there are much smarter people in this town than me who could really help. Cops cant do it alone. They are deff trying. Hats off to them. Compassion and love will is the ONLY way to fix this. I hope every1 has a great day!

  8. We need to stop comparing immigration and refugees veterans services with our other problems,one has nothing to do with the other we can and should address them all.They look to divide us while they take take take take,poor people aren’t the thieves and moochers in our society.It’s always politics before people,Mannal was pandering to his conservative Barnstable constituents.
    .

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