Published: 07/17/2021 8:00:54 AM
NORTHAMPTON – Roundhouse municipal parking lot is fully fenced as workers prepare to expand and repave it, while less than 15 meters away is still the homeless tent camp that Mayor David Narkewicz planned to vacate by Thursday.
MASS-WEST Construction, the contractor for the project that requires a temporary diversion of the cycle path, has started equipping the parking lot. The tents are on the edge of the bike path under the nearby South Street Bridge.
City officials urged the settlers to move out of concerns for their health and safety, Narkewicz said, giving a deadline of July 15. Narkewicz said Monday that he had “no formal evictions” if the deadline was exceeded.
The Gazette interviewed three of the half-dozen settlers in the camp this week: Charles “CJ” Cummings, Jim Bushey, and Eric Anderson. Only Bushey had moved out on Friday morning. His tent wasn’t in its usual place and Cummings said he wasn’t sure where Bushey was going.
Cummings, 45, said his status as a level 3 sex offender made it difficult and time consuming to find work and shelter. The day after the deadline, he said he had no idea where to go next.
“A lot of us work, but we don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars on a hotel for a couple of nights and then not go anywhere. Housing takes time, ”said Cummings.
A dumpster used by the settlers, privately owned in an apartment building in the city center, has been moved in the past few days and rubbish is piling up in the warehouse. The settlers said they hoped the city would provide garbage bags for them to clean up themselves.
When the Gazette mentioned the request to Alan Wolf, the mayor’s chief of staff, he said he would resolve the issue immediately.
“I’ll bring you a couple of bags right away,” said Wolf, who could be reached by phone in the town hall. He said the city has a special cleaning team who handle sharp objects safely and they expect to clean the site themselves. “I’ll get in my car and get some contractor bags from my house,” he said.
A portable toilet the city placed near the bike path during the COVID-19 pandemic when public toilets were closed was picked up by a city crew this week because the public health emergency is over, Wolf said. There were four such toilets across town, and all of them were removed.
Wolf reiterated that Narkewicz had no plans to clear the camp, but said that “anyone who is not a professional construction worker” must avoid the area.
“The area is closed to bikers, motorists and campers. The hope is that none of them will be there when this work is in progress, ”said Wolf.
Brian Steele can be reached at [email protected]