Homeless squatters removed from property

City crews remove debris that was part of a camp where a homeless couple lived on Illinois Street in West Point.
Staff Writer

A homeless couple West Point city leaders say move around the city setting up camp was removed from a property Friday morning after months of complaints from neighbors.

Mayor Robbie Robinson cited the city’s health, nuisance and zoning codes as grounds for the eviction from the lot on Illinois Street about three blocks from the city’s Public Works building.

The city obtained permission from the owner of the property, who lives elsewhere, to remove the squatters.

“He told us no one should be living on the property and he didn’t want anyone living on the property,” Robinson said, noting the couple who were removed were distant relatives of the owner.

Robinson had Police Chief Avery Cook go to the property first Friday morning and explain the situation. Then crews moved in, spending almost four hours with a front-end loader and boom truck scooping up three truck loads of debris and hauling it to the landfill.

“They were cooperative. When we got there, we told them to get whatever belongings they wanted to keep. They got a purse and some clothes and some other things and took them out to the street,” Robinson said.

“But it was a mess. We hauled out old TVs, pallets, old furniture, just junk. It looked like they were trying to build some kind of shelter with the pallets and planned to cover it with a tarp,” Robinson continued of the couple, who are in their late 30s.

The city has dealt with the pair before, including at one point when they camped near a part of the city’s walking trails.

“They’ve been offered help before but don’t want it,” the mayor said.

City leaders speculate they ended up on Illinois Street because the man’s late grandmother once lived on the street and because of the distant tie to the owner of the property.

The man and woman initially left their salvaged belongings on the curb and left but the items were gone by 12:30 p.m. Friday as the city was finishing its clean up.

“The neighbors were happy, they are glad,” Robinson said.

The city has been working on the problem for several weeks, but those efforts picked up momentum two weeks ago when Selectman Ken Poole, is whose ward the property is, brought it up at a Board of Selectmen study session.

“It’s been going on two years with these people, we’ve moved them out of three places already,” Codes Enforcement Officer Jeremy Klutts said at the time.

“Do whatever you have to, arrest them, whatever it takes, but this can’t go on. Nobody wants this next to them, and it smells,” Poole said, showing pictures to other selectmen. “If this was next to me I’d be at every meeting wearing y’all out. Don’t throw in the towel.”

Robinson said he wasn’t sure where the couple had gone, but he fears it won’t be the last time the city will have to deal with them.

“We don’t have any real services for situations like this. Given their track record, I suspect they’ll show back up somewhere. But they don’t want help. Our hands are a little tied. It’s a shame,” he surmised.