Denton County began a dayslong effort Monday to finish clearing out a homeless encampment on county property near Woodrow Lane, a process that has displaced its occupants amid “increasing concerns of health and safety hazards,” according to officials.
The encampment is located within a forested area on county property south of Troy H. LaGrone Drive, west of the Monsignor King Outreach Center and Denton County Juvenile Detention Center. The city of Denton included a brief of the “cleanup” effort in its Oct. 8 Friday report, laying out that it would take four to five days beginning Monday.
Reached in the afternoon, Denton County spokesperson Dawn Cobb said she didn’t know exactly how many occupants were living on the 4.75-acre property, but said they were given advance notice they would be displaced.
Multiple organizations have been involved with the people living at the encampment in past months. Giving Hope’s street outreach staff made at least 14 visits since January, reporting “increasing concerns of health and safety hazards for occupants of the encampment and the surrounding area.” In the past three weeks, the staff has joined with the Denton Police Department homeless outreach team to notify occupants the land would be cleared out.
Those teams reported an “increased receptiveness” of the encampment’s residents to referrals of service and housing options. They also notified local shelters and nonprofits that they should prepare to provide increased services to the people who will be displaced from the land.
“Everyone has been moved out of the camp,” Cobb said. “The idea is not to displace anyone, but for their health and safety it’s better for them to receive services and find a place that will provide them with whatever they need. For any neighbors around that are feeling unsafe, it’s addressing their concerns as well.”
Local activist Willie Hudspeth, who lives nearby and regularly attends the county’s weekly Commissioners Court meetings, has complained about the encampment over the past month. He thanked commissioners last Tuesday after learning of their decision to clear it out.
“You’re going to be made out to be the bad person one way or the other,” said Hudspeth. “You’re moving people out but you’re not providing a place for them to go. So I share in your frustration.”
Hudspeth could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
The process, Cobb said, now consists of clearing out remaining debris. The county contracted garbage removal company Freedom Commercial Services for the purpose, paying $11,970.
“Primarily, it was addressing what appeared to be a growing health and safety concern for everyone involved, both the occupants and anyone surrounding the property,” Cobb said.
Cobb added that while the county is constantly discussing future uses for its property, she did not know of any immediate plans for the former encampment site.