Pastor reacts after Savannah homeless camp evictions

Published: Oct. 16, 2022 at 11:53 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The City of Savannah evicted members of a homeless camp under the Truman Parkway earlier this week forcing dozens of people to start over.

Savannah city officials say the camp came under new scrutiny following an investigation from a recent fire there.

Pastor Deborah Townes says the evictions came as a surprise.

“It was heartbreaking and shocking because I don’t think they really saw that coming and I didn’t either because they had been out there for so long.” Deborah Townes, Blessings Outpouring of GoodHeart Outreach Ministry said.

She says she’s been in contact with some of the evicted as she’s worked over the past months to feed those at the camp.

The city forced those living here out last week after renewed safety concerns following a fire at the camp that shutdown a part of the Truman Parkway.

Bulldozers and fencing now remain blocking access to the camp.

Savannah city officials spoke to WTOC once the eviction was announced.

“It’s not safe to be under the Truman any longer and so it’s vital and important for us as a community to recognize these are people,” Executive Director Savannah Chatham Authority for Homeless Jennifer Darsey said.

Townes says she agrees that safety was a concern.

She claims the city could’ve done more to implement more long-term plans.

“I do agree with that, but I think there should’ve been a better plan in place than just pushing them out in so many days. I think they would’ve gotten a better response if they did the planning better than what they did,” Townes said.

City officials did offer bus tickets shelter space and animal support services to those impacted.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson at his weekly news conference.

“We’re going to treat them with respect. We’re not throwing anybody away,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said.

While Townes says the city did try to help she believes more transitional services need to be available to help those who lived here.

Some for nearly a decade she says.

“They just pushed them out too fast. I think we missed the big, main point because I think they need to be in a transition house where they can eventually transition themselves back into society, into being able to live in a home,” Townes says.

As she now says some of those impacted aren’t sure what to do next.

“Some of them still don’t know where their meals are going to come from because a lot of their stuff, they say is bulldozed up. So, they don’t have a lot of stuff,” Townes said.