Homeless pitch tents in public lot; City says it's legal - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Homeless pitch tents in public lot; City says it's legal

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By Michael Slother - email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The freezing weather is especially hard for Lubbock's homeless. Many continue to struggle with finding a place where they are allowed to sleep. Some have discovered a new option downtown.

Some of the homeless have pitched tents in a vacant public lot off of Avenue Q and Broadway. The city passed a curfew banning people from certain public areas between midnight and 5 a.m. This lot is not included in the ordinance. The city says as long as the people don't break any laws or pose a threat to public safety, they can stay.

Clifford Van Loan has been homeless since May. He says others like him aren't trying to be a public nuisance, but trying to seek shelter. "Worthless trash, hobos, whatever you want to call us; We're just trying to stay warm," he said.

Van Loan spent his day applying a waterproof seal to the tents so they were ready to battle the elements. "This does shield you from the wind and protects you from precipitation so this is a viable option for many of us."

So far the Carpenter's Church has about 10 tents. They are loaning the tents, in exchange for signing a sheet stating there will be no alcohol or drug use and the area will be kept clean.

"One of the conditions the church places on lending us these tents is to keep drugs and alcohol away," Van Loan told us.

"It is not against the law for those people to be there. It is only a violation of the law when they start violating the laws already on the books in Lubbock," said city councilman Paul Beane.

Lubbock's homeless population continues to gain the attention of city council and the public. Even though tents and sleeping bags will help temporarily, many still feel the homeless need an indoor shelter besides the Salvation Army, including Councilman Todd Klein. "I think there is a need for greater shelter and also tough love to say we need you to be compliant so we can bring you in from the elements," Klein said.

Van Loan says he hopes those who join him on the lot will act responsibly so this will be a place the homeless are welcome. "If you're out on the street, you should not be a wild animal. That's one of the problems we had at the library and we don't want that to happen here," he said.

The Carpenter's Church says instead of people donating old sleeping bags or tents that may not be in good shape they're encouraging donations to help buy new sleeping bags and tents that will keep folks warm in these freezing temperatures. You can e-mail Barrett Smith with Carpenter's Church here.

©2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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