FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – As wind chills drop into the teens, one community of homeless families in Fort Worth is worried they’ll soon be forced out of their makeshift “tent city”.
The encampment of 40-50 people is located off East Riverside and East Lancaster.
“We’ve got an air mattress a bunch of sleeping bags and heavy quilts that churches have donated to us.” Said one homeless man who goes by the nickname ‘Preacher’.
He has lived in the tent city about a month, along with his wife. The couple stay at the camp because spouses are not allowed to stay together at night shelters.
“There’s no other place we can go.” He said, “My wife has health problems and I’ve got to take care of her and they separate the males from the females.”
Although conditions aren’t ideal, the homeless at the camp keep warm using blankets, candles and small propane heaters.
“With candles and heaters and things of that nature, it’s definitely a home.” Said Ivan McCarthy, one of the first people at the camp, which has been there for about two years.
While they admit it isn’t safe to burn candles or use heating devices in tents, they believe it is better than the alternative.
Most of the items at the tent city are donated by church groups, including a kitchen complete with grills and coolers.
“They had nothing to cook on, no fuel, no heat,” said church organizer Rick Paredes, who discovered the camp in November, “and we knew winter was coming on.”
But the dozens of people living there will soon be forced to leave.
The tent city is set up on private land owned by Barnett Gathering LP, which is a subsidiary of XTO.
The encampment is against city code and Fort Worth officials have given the landowner ten days to comply or face fines.
“We have just been alerted to the situation and are looking into it,” said Jeff Neu or XTO.
Fort Worth’s homeless shelters have plenty of room to house the people but some refuse to go there stating the close quarters spread illness.
“The reason they’re here is they feel safer here,” Paredes said.
“Certain shelters only give you a couple days, McCarthy said, “after that you’re pretty much on your own.”
A city spokesperson said the church groups have the right intentions but are not necessarily helping in the right way because they are allowing the homeless to continue to break the law by staying on someone else’s land.
The encampment was much smaller before the church group started donating resources, according to city officials.
Fort Worth has a website, ahomewithhope.org, where those interested in helping with the homeless cause can partner with organizations that offer services to those in need.