Few homeless found during first day of city's new program - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Few homeless found during first day of city's new program

A clearing of Memphis homeless encampments did not end up as planned Wednesday. A clearing of Memphis homeless encampments did not end up as planned Wednesday.

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A clearing of Memphis homeless encampments did not end up as planned Wednesday.

Under heavy scrutiny, Memphis police officers and homeless providers went to 33 encampments across the city to transition the homeless into housing.  While there were no arrests, as community action groups predicted, whether or not it was a success depended on who you spoke with.

Clarence Brister says he hasn't been able to hold a job since he left the Navy in 1982.  When Brister read in the paper that Memphis Mayor AC Wharton planned to clear out homeless encampments across the city Wednesday, he put everything he owned in his wheelchair.

"I don't have too much to carry," he said. "I've got some clothes I've got to get washed."

Old blankets and tattered cushions were all that could be found when Memphis police and homeless service providers made their rounds. Brister said people cleared out after hearing the homeless would get arrested for trespassing.

"Nobody's been arrested," Wharton said. "Nobody's been hassled."

And, Wharton said, that wasn't the intent.

"This whole thing is protective, not punitive, and that's what you're going to see," he said.

Wharton said he wants to move people from underpasses, graffiti-ridden enclaves, and out of the cold.

"The temperature is going to be below 32 degrees. Actually, it's going to be 24, so we have various plans we're going to be activating," he said.

The bitter cold is something Brister knows.

"You just try to do what you can to keep warm," he said.
    
While Wharton's office says it is cleaning homeless encampments, community activists say they're destroying personal belongings.  Brister said he'd wait to see what happens.

"You have to set your blueprint, set your guideline, and see if it'll work first," he said.

Brister wouldn't say where he planned to sleep Wednesday night.  Meanwhile, Wharton said Wednesday's effort put three people into housing and he'll keep the program going as long as there's a need.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.


The city of Memphis issued this press release Wednesday evening:

CITY OF MEMPHIS IDENTIFIES IMMEDIATE SHELTER FOR THE HOMELESS - TONIGHT

Memphis, TN --- December 9, 2009,  Given weather reports that local temperatures are to fall as low as 23 degrees tonight, City of Memphis has worked with Partners for the Homeless and Coalition for the Homeless to identify and confirm the following direction and information for those persons in need of immediate shelter:

  • Families and women with children are to call the Homeless Hotline at 901-260-4663 for arrangements. The line and service will be covered after hours. There is no charge for this service and arrangements.
  • Single men are to go to Memphis Union Mission Men's Emergency Shelter located at 383 Poplar Avenue. There will be NO charge for persons needing shelter tonight.
Powered by Frankly