Homeless camp

Discarded trash sits in a wooded area at North Lakes Park, as seen Tuesday. The city of Denton contracted Freedom Services to clean up the encampment, scheduled for Monday.

Nearly a dozen men will plunge into a wooded area of North Lakes Park on Monday morning to clean up what Denton officials have called a homeless encampment.

The roughly 10,000-square-foot area behind a Goodwill thrift store is littered with tents and makeshift shelters, muddy clothes and empty suitcases, fast-food bags, dozens of bottles of mosquito repellent, batteries, coolers, mugs, burn piles, discarded Styrofoam and plastic bags, and even a copy of the “Cowboy 10 Commandments.”

All of this, entangled in trees and overflowing into a creek, belonged to people living outdoors. City officials say nobody is currently living in the area, but it will cost about $3,000 out of the Denton’s parks and recreation budget to clean it all up, records show.

In a Friday memo to the city manager, the parks and recreation director wrote that the area poses a public safety and health problem for Denton.

The fire department responded to a garbage fire there in mid-February.

The city’s Street Outreach Team — made of Denton County MHMR, Denton police and fire departments, and nonprofits Giving Hope Inc. and Vision Ministries — visited the site about eight times in the past six months, according to the memo.

On Tuesday morning, the city awarded Denton-based Freedom Services a bid to clear out the area. About 10 workers will enter the site at about 8 a.m. Monday with two trucks, an 18-foot trailer and a smaller trailer to pick up the trash and haul it off to the dump.

“We tend to leave the area better than when we go there,” said Louie Pancoast, co-founder of Freedom Services.

Two or three of the workers were once homeless themselves, Pancoast said.

Freedom Services helps provide job training for men in Denton Freedom House. The faith-based rehabilitation program ushers men from tough spots in life, such as homelessness, through steps like getting back their identification and Social Security cards and connecting them with housing and work opportunities.

Pancoast said Tuesday it will probably take about two trailer-loads to move all the trash out of North Lakes Park. He expects the job to take no more than a day.

“We’ll have 200 bags with us just to be on the safe side,” he said.

While nobody was seen at the camp Tuesday afternoon, Pancoast said if he and his crew encounter anybody living there on Monday, they will be invited to enter the Freedom House program.

And he said no trees will be cut down and the creek will be preserved.

“Just passing by, nothing will catch your eye,” Pancoast said. “It will be a wall of brush there.”

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.

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