ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) — In the woods behind the Whitfield Colony subdivision in Athens, residents say a homeless camp sits among the trees. Residents in that neighborhood and business owners near the encampment told members of the city council Monday that the camp is causing a disruption in their day-to-day lives.
“We’re probably going to have to look at bigger cities and what their solutions have been,” Athens Limestone Ministerial Alliance Convenor Lee Michael said. “Not that we’re anywhere near that size, but if we don’t, like they said today…the neighborhood that is very concerned…if we don’t stop, they’re going to be living in that neighborhood with them.”
Michael says he’s glad this issue has been brought up. He says the Athens Limestone Ministerial Alliance started a homeless task force with the city council around six years ago. At the time, Michael says there were around 15 homeless individuals, but that number has grown tremendously.
“I would love for Limestone County to have a rescue mission for them to go to. Sad thing is, the churches did “warming centers” when it got cold and none of the homeless people came to it. So, I don’t know if we build it…they’d come,” Michael said.
City officials say the issue is more complicated than simply driving someone experiencing homelessness away from where he or she is currently staying.
City of Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks says, “We have contacted the property owners in Texas. There is a legal process to walk through.”
Mayor Marks said because it’s not the city’s property, the property owner is responsible for letting police know that someone is trespassing. While the city was made aware of the issue prior to Monday’s city council meeting, the mayor said everyone is on the same page when it comes to resolving this issue.
“I’ve got woods behind my house. I don’t want homeless encampments there because of my grandchild and other children in the neighborhood,” Marks said. “I understand it, but I also understand that there’s a process that has to be followed. We are going to work out a plan to try and make that happen.”
Mayor Marks is encouraging residents to reach out to the city or the police department if they encounter an issue like this in the future.