No Trespassing Sign Causes Concern at Homeless Camp

When a red no trespassing sign suddenly went up about a month ago, right between a soon-to-be-closed Dale City, Virginia, Kmart and a homeless camp in the woods, some of the residents feared their eviction could soon follow.

"Other people started putting these rumors out that when Kmart closed we would have to move, but I don't know where it came from," said Totaries Carter. For the past two years, the 35 year old has often called a tent in the camp his home. His mother lives in another tent, and his cousin is also part of the five tent community.

"I'm just camping out. I'm not homeless," explains Carter. "I'm just waiting for the Lord to give me a sign to move on."

Community activists hope the trespassing sign doesn't mean the camp residents will be forced out during winter's cold. They've formed a new group to both help make the camp residents more comfortable and fend off eviction threats.

Lucile Cahill, known as "Mama Lucy" in the camp, heads the Dale City Civic Association Homeless Outreach Program. She's especially worried about what's ahead because the KMart closes Sunday and a new "Americans in Wartime Museum" is being constructed near the site.

"As soon as it (the no trespassing sign) went up they were very anxious because they didn't know when they were going to have to leave, where they were going to go," Cahill said. "All the homeless camps in Dale City are in jeopardy because there's so much building going on."

Cahill's group has been trying to get answers about the campsite's future. They've also held several donation drives recently to get winter supplies for residents. Cahill says volunteers offer literacy assistance and help looking for work.

"Our motto is a hand up, not a hand out," said Cahill. "Our goal is to get as many out as possible. We're not interested in coming year after year with supplies ... Most of these people are capable of getting out. They just need a hand."

Camp resident Stacye Escalante is a prime example. At the busy intersection closest to the camp, she waved a big sign at drivers, advertising Kmart's final sale.

"Holding a sign for Kmart it's like, sure, no problem. It's $10 an hour, 5 hours a day," said Escalante.

She hopes to eventually find a one bedroom apartment. Until then, she and Carter say they appreciate the outreach group's help.

"I think that's wonderful for them to come out here and feed us and give us clothes. We appreciate that because a lot of people don't come over here like that," said Carter.

Saturday's donation drive is from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. in the parking lot next to the Kmart. For more information you can check the outreach group's Facebook page.

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