One of the region’s largest encampments for homeless people was removed Thursday.
Crews took down dozens of tents from the encampment near O Street in Northwest D.C. and moved those living there out as some protesters looked on.
The work consumed most of the day at the sweeping encampment. Some homeless men and women had been living there for years.
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The removal of encampments has been the source of growing controversy amid dueling complaints that the people suffering homelessness don’t have other options and that the encampments can be unsanitary and dangerous to people who live there and nearby.
A News4 I-Team investigation found a fast-rising number of fire emergencies at the O Street park and an overall spike in the number of encampments throughout the District during the pandemic as some people experiencing homelessness forgo shelters.
The District started a pilot project to offer leases and temporary housing.
Jhamol Thomas, who lived at the O Street encampment across from his alma mater, Dunbar High School, said Thursday’s removal was handled professionally and orderly. But he said it is hard to leave.
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“In the beginning, I broke down because there was somewhere that I was here for a long time, but other than that, a lot of people started talking to me -- case managers, agency started to talk to me,” he said.
“It’s still upsetting, because it’s somewhere that I’ve been for a moment,” he added.
Thomas said he’s been moved into a hotel by the District until a slot opens for a temporary housing lease.
According to the District's latest numbers, almost 60 people in encampments have been housed, including about a dozen from the O Street location.