If one looks close enough, they can see the hints of habitation in the woods along Peyton Street. The tops of tarps peek over the treeline a few yards into the woods showing the telltale signs of a camp. For some Sherman residents, this is home.
Officials with the city of Sherman are moving forward with the removal of a well-known homeless camp along Peyton Street. Earlier this week, city officials gave notice to members of the camp to leave the area by Monday or face arrest for trespassing.
Meanwhile, homeless advocates are looking to find a more permanent home for nearly a dozen people who will soon be dislocated.
“We want to give these people a lift up and not just give them something,” homeless advocate Christopher Creed said. “It is about teaching a man to fish, you know?”
Sherman Community and Support Manager Nate Strauch said the Peyton Street camp has been around for years, but issues have been increasing in recent months. Once word of mouth got in the local homeless community about the location, it began to grow quickly and beyond what could be supported, he said.
“Once word got out that this was a good place, it started to grow and got out of hand,” Strauch said.
This has led to regular complaints by neighbors for trash, sanitation and vandalism from neighboring property owners in recent months. As the property is in the flood plain, trash and debris has also been swept away into local waterways during heavy rains.
While the city said that about 50 people lived at the camp, Creed said that the camp usually is home to about 14 people. However, since the city stepped in only about eight people remain. The majority of those living at the camp are over the age of 40, he added.
Creed has created an organization called 903 Mindful to help assist the homeless individuals at the camp.
The discussions on the future of the camp started about three weeks ago when local advocates were called into a meeting with city staff, Creed said. During those meetings, Creed said staff asked for people to move the camp away from a nearby Montessori School and clean up trash from the site.
However, the city took a step back from this initial cooperation this week and now are looking to remove the camp.
“My opinion is that they pulled us in just to say that they tried,” Creed said.
Creed said staff also offered $50,000 was offered by the city to help finance a new camp, but this offer has since been rescinded. Strauch said that no finances were discussed during the meeting, but the city did commit to putting a dumpster in the area to assist with clean up.
Strauch admitted that removing the camp will not end the homelessness problem in Sherman and will simply be relocating it. Other steps and solutions will be needed to help the people find a more permanent home.
“This problem doesn’t go away because you just say they can’t be there,” he said.
Looking in the long term, Creed said he is looking to find a place to develop a tiny cottage community that would give the homeless a place to live. However, he is still looking for land to build the community on.
Strauch said the city has tried to assist in the relocation effort, but there have not been any property owners who would be willing to allow the camp on their land.
“That is one of the biggest things — there are people who want to help, but if something were to go awry, they would be held responsible, and that is scary for many, many reasons,” Strauch said.