By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The owners of the South Gloster Street property popular as a homeless hangout oppose the city’s suggestion of ousting squatters from the land.
Doyce Deas, whose family owns several acres bordering Gloster and Carnation streets, said the people who live there in tents and tarps can stay as long as they want.
“I’m not in favor of making them leave the property, because they’re just going to go somewhere else,” Deas told the Daily Journal. “The city needs to find a reasonable solution.”
About one dozen homeless people live on the north bank of Town Creek behind Wendy’s. Many there say they’ve sought help at The Salvation Army but were turned away for various reasons. The Salvation Army said it provides free meals to everyone in need, but it limits lodging only to those who stay off drugs and alcohol and actively seek employment.
Earlier this month, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. acknowledged the camp’s presence posed problems for nearby businesses and suggested it needs to go. But no one has taken any action yet.
“No one has said anything to us,” said Police Chief Tony Carleton.
And the city’s Homelessness Task Force has no immediate solutions, either, according to the Rev. Paul Stephens, task force member and rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church. Appointed just last year, the task force is exploring a variety of options to help the city’s homeless population, but it’s still in the early stages of its work.
Many of the homeless people living on the South Gloster property said they have nowhere else to go. Some have sought work but have little luck finding jobs or keeping them.
“The issue is not going to go away if we move these people,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell, who had pushed for the creation of the task force. “It’s good that it’s become more visible and that the community is talking about it. For a long time I don’t think Tupelo acknowledged that it had a homelessness problem.”