BALTIMORE, March 4 (UPI) -- Baltimore city officials said they will clear a homeless encampment along one of the main highways entering the city after weeks of delays.
About 20 homeless people living in tents along the Jones Falls Expressway will be placed in temporary emergency shelters until a permanent solution is found, city officials said. Advocates for the homeless criticized the city's approach, saying many in the encampment are there precisely because they do not want to live in the shelters.
Venus Wiles, who lives in a tent with her boyfriend, told The Baltimore Sun Monday they left a shelter after she was sexually harassed and because men and women are separated there, meaning they could not spend nights together.
Wiles said the camp has been targeted because city leaders find it embarrassing, but she said those living there are trying to improve their lives. Clearing the camp will only make matters worse.
"You're going to have more people laying downtown on the sidewalk, or on the curbs or on the steps," she warned. "Hopefully, we can find affordable housing. It's really hard to find a job when you're homeless and really hard to find a home when you're jobless. I want what I used to have, a normal life."
City leaders said they're clearing the camp because it isn't safe. Drug and alcohol use have been documented and there have been allegations of domestic abuse.
But those living there tell a different story.
"You might live in the dirt ... but at least you have peace," said Kevin Gipson, who lives in the encampment. "I don't understand that. We ain't never had no trouble."